Six key actions have been set in motion following this week’s National Centre Against Bullying (NCAB) Conference in a bid to further reduce bullying and cyber bullying across Australia.
Australian and international delegates attended the conference – an initiative of the Alannah & Madeline Foundation – at Melbourne’s Crown Conference Centre on July 28 and 29, working under the theme Towards Bullying Solutions.
More than 50 presentations were delivered, including keynote speeches from Professor Dorothy Espelage (US), Professor Wendy Craig (Canada) and Australians, Professor Helen McGrath and Professor Toni Noble.
NCAB is Australia’s pre-eminent bullying authority and includes 24 academics and researchers from across the country.
NCAB Chair and former Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia the Hon Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC said it was imperative that we now adopt a public health and safety approach to bullying.
“We heard during the conference extensive evidence about the physical changes to the brain and the potentially lifelong psychological impacts of bullying,” Justice Nicholson said.
“The focus should move beyond the bully as centre of the problem, bullying should now be managed as a public health issue because of its potentially devastating long-term impacts for victims.”
He said the conference put its full weight behind recognising the importance of the National Safe Schools Framework as a critical way of overcoming the different policies established in each Australian state and territory to address bullying.
“In particular, special considerations and actions were needed to respond to trends of gender-based bullying and harassment of transgender or homosexual children and young adults,” he said.
Justice Nicholson said the conference also called for young people to be actively involved in the development of policy and prevention strategies. This was especially relevant to the growing concern over cyber bullying.________________________________
1. Bullying and harassment should be treated as a major public health, safety and human rights issue
Evidence is clear as to the psychological and traumatic impact of bullying. Accordingly, there is an urgent need for greater cross collaboration between the education and health sectors. This should also include parents, schools and community in addressing bullying and harassment because of their long-term impact on the health and wellbeing of people who have been bullied and on the perpetrators of bullying and harassment. Recent community violence events in Australia and internationally have highlighted this need.
UNICEF recognises bullying as a human rights issue, arising from the Convention of the Rights of the Child. The issue should be supported by greater Federal and state government public health and safety investment in wellbeing, including evidence-based resources to prevent, identify and address bullying in all of its forms (online and offline).
2. Recognition of the significance of gender, identity and sexuality in bullying and harassment
There is an urgent need for the issues of gender equity, identity and sexuality in bullying and harassment to be addressed at all levels of society. Policies and actions must address these issues as a matter of urgency. The conference supported the Safe Schools Coalition Australia (SSCA) program in creating safe and supportive school environments for same-sex attracted, intersex and gender-diverse people by reducing homophobic and transphobic bullying and discrimination in schools.
3. Endorsement and support of the National Safe Schools Framework
The conference recognises the importance of the National Safe Schools Framework as a critical way of overcoming the current situation of each state and territory having different policies to address bullying.
4. Greater role for young people in drafting and implementing of school bullying and cyberbullying policies and evidence-based practices.
Schools and governments should give young people a meaningful role in developing school bullying and cyber bullying policies and evidence-based practices. The Federal Government’s Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner should include young people in the formulation of policies to address cyberbullying.
5. Changes to the Online Safety for Children’s Act
The threshold of ‘seriousness’ in the Enhancing Online Safety for Children Act 2015 should be amended to allow for instances of cyberbullying that may not reach the threshold to be dealt with by the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner.
6. Support for world-class school curriculum, assessment and reporting
The conference supports the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority’s (ACARA) initiatives to improve the learning of all young Australians through world-class school curriculum, assessment and reporting. Social and emotional-based learning in children is a significant factor in assisting children experiencing bullying in the school environment.
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