SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION, KATE ELLIS: Well it’s fantastic to join Minister Susan Close here at Urrbrae where we can see on this National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence, South Australia and Urrbrae leading the charge with a student led initiative here. We know that bullying in schools is no small issue. In fact, the statistics show that one in four students between years four and nine experience regular bullying. This is something that is affecting far too many young Australians, and it is important that we stand up, that we call it out and that we demand more action.
In South Australia alone, 24 young people under the age of 24 take their life in a year. This is the equivalent of a whole classroom being lost from our state each and every year, and we know that bullying can play a very real role in this. So it’s wonderful that we see here at Urrbrae students taking a stand, supported by their staff, and supported by the school, with some really innovative new approaches. More needs to be done, we need to all make sure that each and every school across Australia is a site of academic excellence, but it needs to more than that. It needs to be a safe place where can go each and every day, where they can feel supported by their fellow students and by the staff members. And that means that days like today are very important to mark, and to celebrate the great new initiatives that we are seeing.
JOURNALIST: Those are some shocking statistics you talked about there, what do you believe needs to be done to try and change that?
KATE ELLIS: Well there is no one easy answer. We know that in the old days, bullying may have occurred in the school yard , but students could leave at the end of the day, they could leave the school gates and leave it behind. Of course today, with social media, with smart phones, it means that often that bullying will follow them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So it’s really important that we use our schools to establish what is appropriate and inappropriate behaviour, but it is also really important that we support students to be leaders amongst their own community, that we support students standing up and saying what is acceptable behaviour and what is not, and that we empower young Australians to put in place real actions that will change behaviours in our school grounds. This won’t happen overnight, but we are seeing some really exciting initiatives, like the one here at Urrbrae, which are having students lead each other in appropriate behaviour.
JOURNALIST: So it’s really the responsibility of everyone to help combat this issue?
KATE ELLIS: I think that’s right. We know that it is the responsibility of our fellow students, it is the responsibility of teachers and principals, and it is the responsibility of parents. We as a community need to stand up and say that young Australians deserve to be in an environment that is free of bullying, and that’s something that we all have a lot of work to do, but also there is enough evidence to give us hope, that there are some new directions forward.
JOURNALIST: Does today’s video tackle the issue of cyber-bullying?
KATE ELLIS: Well what we are seeing is that there are a range of circumstances. Bullying is not new, but the modes of bullying are changing as our society changes. That’s why it is important that we actually deal with the young Australians who are encountering this behaviour each day in the schoolyard. That what worked when I was at school, or when my parents were at school, is not necessarily the solutions we need today. So working with young people, like the great young people behind me now, means that they come up with the best solutions to fit their everyday lifestyle.
FRIDAY, 20 MARCH 2015