Turnbull pens letter as schools continue anti-bullying fight

BULLYING will always be a rite of passage – but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable, and it’s vital to provide schools and young people tools and support to fight it.

That’s according to a local youth services worker, as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull writes to Australian school principals, urging them to stamp out bullying.

Mr Turnbull is calling on schools to sign up to the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence on March 16.

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His letter comes as anti-bullying action continues in the region’s schools – efforts that are “definitely” serious and well-intentioned, Avril Oakley-Hollow has said.

The Tamworth headspace youth and community engagement officer is scheduled to give six year-group talks this week and next, on digital tools to reduce and report bullying.

Ms Oakley-Hollow said Oxley High School had arranged the seminars “not because they have a bullying problem, but just because they’re really keen to see [these tools] roll out in the region”.

“We’re really popular to be asked to come to different schools; lots of teachers are asking, ‘What are we going to do about this bullying?’” she said.

“You can’t go in and eradicate it … but you can give them the scaffolding and tools and go, ‘It’s there if you want to use it’.”

While declining to comment on Mr Turnbull’s letter or any specific school programs, a Department of Education spokesperson for the region said, “Bullying and other forms of aggressive behaviour are not tolerated in NSW public schools”.

“As part of their stand against bullying, public schools have anti-bullying plans, which include responses to bullying and programs to encourage students to relate more effectively and avoid bullying,” they said.

“The Department of Education played a leading role in the ... anti-bullying initiative launched in October last year. It has also led digital citizenship and creation of cyber bullying resources for students, parents and the community.”

The Leader contacted several private schools in Tamworth, but none were able to respond before our deadline.

Letter to principals

Mr Turnbull wrote in his letter that “all students have the right to be safe at school”.

“Together we can reduce the incidence of bullying, whether inside the school gate or online, and eliminate it wherever we can.”

Mr Turnbull said some examples of school action were holding conferences to help students support their peers, or holding poster competitions.

Ms Oakley-Hollow said bullying was, unfortunately “a fairly universal thing”.

“If you talk to these young people’s parents, bullying was a thing for them, too,” she said.

“It hasn’t magically arrived – but now it’s less accepted, that would be the difference.

“Now you can say something and no one will say, ‘Well, that’s just the way it is’.

“I think people feel more empowered to speak up rather than just let it go.”

She also said it was important to help young people build their resilience.

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