Governments failing young people on bullying and abuse

in Press Releases

Media Release - Wednesday 27 July

Governments are failing young people on bullying and abuse, according to National Centre Against Bullying Chair the Hon Justice Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC.

Justice Nicholson, a former Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, said the tear gassing and ‘torture’ of children in detention in the Northern Territory was a further example of this. He described the Northern Territory incidents as “horrific”.

Some of the world’s leading bullying experts will gather in Melbourne this Thursday and Friday to focus on solutions aimed at reducing bullying and abuse in schools and the community.

The seventh biennial National Centre Against Bullying (NCAB) Conference will include more than 200 academics, researchers, psychiatrists, government department officials, community health experts and a panel of students who will look at more than 50 issues surrounding bullying and cyber bullying.

NCAB is an initiative of the Alannah & Madeline Foundation, which runs care, prevention and advocacy programs to protect children from violence and bullying.

Research shows that one in five schoolchildren are bullied in Australia and that victims of bullies are two-to-nine times more likely to commit suicide at some point in their teenage years.

Justice Nicholson emphasised that bullying and cyberbullying were a “serious problem” in Australia.

“We are failing our young people in addressing the problem, especially with the strong links between bullying and suicidal ideations,” Justice Nicholson said. “Governments have to look at the whole issue of bullying, from the school, to the home, the workforce and the community.

“The Northern Territory’s children in detention issue highlights this even further. Child abuse, whether it is through physical and mental bullying and cyber bullying, or physical abuse and torture in the Northern Territory case, cannot remain a secondary priority to governments today.

“Governments must address the rights of young people in protecting them from bullying and abuse,” he said. This has to change. I fully support the Prime Minister’s call for a Royal Commission into the issue and I hope that the recommendations are broad enough to ensure governments act on the issues as a priority.”

The Alannah & Madeline Foundation CEO Lesley Podesta echoed Justice Nicholson’s stance and support for a royal commission, re-enforcing the charity’s mission over the past 19 years, protecting up to 1.6 million children from violence and bullying.

“This week we have witnessed an example of horrific violence against children,” Ms Podesta said. “This conference will help further highlight bullying and violence, while formulating new strategies to help protect young people.”

Justice Nicholson called on governments to:

  • mandate the National Safe Schools Framework to overcome different State policies on bullying
  • invest in greater resources to prevent, identify and address bullying and cyber bullying
  • encourage the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner to work with young people in addressing cyber bullying, and
  • amend the threshold of ‘seriousness’ in the Enhancing Online Safety for Children Act 2015 to allow for instances of cyber bullying that may not reach the threshold to be dealt with by the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner.

Among the keynote speakers at the conference are

  • Professor Dorothy Espelage (US) - an expert on bullying, youth aggression and teen-dating violence.
  • Professor Wendy Craig (Can) - a leading expert on the effects of bullying and healthy relationships.
  • Professor Helen McGrath (Aus) - a leading counselling psychologist and author/co-author of 22 books for psychologists, professionals and the general community on social skills, relationships and wellbeing.
  • Professor Toni Noble (Aus) – a leading educator/psychologist in student wellbeing, positive school communities, and positive psychology and education.

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

<ENDS>

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

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