HSV Submissions – February 2011

Bullying in Australia

Submitted dd February 2011 to the Prime Minister, Hon. Julia Gillard

Following our letter to the Prime Minister, HSV received an encouraging response (4 May 2011) from the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth, Hon. Peter Garrett. He thanked the Society for writing on this important matter. The Australian Government fully realized that students need safe, supportive and respectful environments. The National Professional Standards for Teachers, released on 9 February, required teachers to ‘create and maintain supportive and safe learning environments’. The Minister launched a revised National Safe Schools Framework on 18 March, which includes a response to cyber bullying, declaring a National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence. The Government had worked with State education authorities to produce online resources to help bullied students and bystanders of bullying (see Bullying No Way! web site).

The national curriculum, which was being developed, included ‘general capabilities’ that specifically relate to student wellbeing. Public comment and consultation were welcomed by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. The National School Chaplaincy Program was intended to help ‘provide greater pastoral care, personal advice and support to all students and staff, and positively contribute to their wellbeing’.

The Government had invested $276.9 million over four years to address the tragedy of suicide (Department of Health and Ageing), including $65.9 million to promote resilience in young people and prevent suicide. In addition, $175.8 million was announced in the 2010 Budget to focus on youth friendly services, such as the Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre model. The Commonwealth Department of Education contributed to a recent government round-table on youth suicide prevention.

There was a strong legislative framework protecting all people in Australia from unlawful discrimination and harassment, both at Commonwealth level (viz.: Age Discrimination Act 2004, Disability Discrimination Act 1992, Racial Discrimination Act 1975, Sex Discrimination Act 1984, Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 and at State and Territory level. There was a bill before the Senate to amend the Sex Discrimination Act by extending the prohibition on sexual harassment of students. The Government was committed to introducing protection from discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. It was committed to appointing an Age Discrimination Commissioner, who would advocate on behalf of young people, and was considering a potential Children’s Commissioner as part of the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children (Department of Families, etc.)