Bullying education starts with mutual respect

in Press Releases

Media Release - Thursday 28 July

A New Zealand program connecting with young people to highlight the importance of mutual respect, suggests that modelling respectful relationships helps reduce bullying.

The Strong Kind and Respectful (SKAR) project, a community-based program led by the Hauraki Family Violence Intervention Network, highlights that adults have to take an active role in explaining differences and diversity to children, while also encouraging them to be kind and understanding.

SKAR project coordinator Sally Christie said evidence suggested that if the culture within the family home and community environment wasn’t supportive of a program, it would not be effective.

Ms Christie, along with Dr Margaret Kempton, will be presenting the program, along with project researcher Dr Margaret Kempton, at the seventh biennial National Centre Against Bullying (NCAB) Conference at Melbourne’s Crown Conference Centre on July 28 and 29. NCAB is an initiative of the Alannah & Madeline Foundation.

“We can’t expect children to form respectful relationships without adults to model their behaviour on,” Ms Christie said. “We should all start making a concerted effort to be respectful in all our personal interactions with others if we want to see real change.”

The SKAR project works in the primary prevention space with the overarching purpose of reducing the level of peer-to-peer victimisation.  It achieves this in a strength-based way, which highlights what a respectful relationship looks like in the many contexts in which children, young people and their families participate.

“Over the last four years of the project, we’ve seen a huge shift in conversations around bullying both locally and nationally in New Zealand,” Dr Kempton said. “It’s gone from taking a view that bullying is just part of growing up, to an understanding that this is a serious issue which causes mental health issues and needs to be addressed.

“We feel as though we’ve played a part in the movement by specifically engaging with people and communities who truly want to understand how to do things differently.  Whether you’re six or 86, people’s recall of bullying experience is astonishing.  It truly can be extraordinarily damaging.”

The Alannah & Madeline Foundation CEO Lesley Podesta said respect was crucial to the success of all relationships.

“It is the responsibility of adults, not solely parents, to provide a positive example for all children,” Ms Podesta said. Hopefully enough people become aware of this research so that we can make a real difference.”

Note to editors:

  • Sally Christie is the coordinator of the SKAR project and Deputy Chair of the Waikato District Health Board. She has a lifetime commitment to healthy communities. Her working background includes nursing, counselling, social service provision, local government, politics, and activism.
  • Margaret Kempton Ph.D. is currently a lecturer for Te Rito Maioha, Early Childhood New Zealand. She has worked as a researcher in both community and formal educational contexts. She is a graduate of the University of Auckland.

For further information on presenters and the NCAB Conference agenda go to www.ncab.org.au

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 Media inquiries contact Adrian Bernecich: 03 9697 0683, 0416 045 701 or adrian.bernecich@amf.org.au.

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