The hot topic of bullying has been on peoples’ agenda for thousands of years. Where there are people who believe they are better than everyone else and want to exert their power over others, there will be bullies.
As a principal I often get asked how we can rid the community of bullies. I hear it mentioned in the media every other day and everyone I speak to has an opinion on this.
If stopping bullying was easy then it would be almost eradicated like a disease. There have been many attempts and programs that deal with bullying. Some of these have made a significant difference. I would like to say that I have the perfect solution; however for every case of bullying the solution is complex and different.
Bullying does not stop or start in schools. Our country’s leaders have been accusing each other of bullying in Parliament. I have witnessed name calling and hateful statements from people that are meant to represent us and be our role models.
Soon we will be acknowledging White Ribbon Day where domestic violence is one of the hidden examples of bullying having devastating effects on both adults and children. The survivors of domestic violence carry the physical and emotional scars for years.
Last week my hairdresser told me of the taunting and threats she received when wearing her hijab. She is so fearful of being assaulted in public that she has removed her hijab. I felt shame when she told me this story, she has the right to her beliefs, she has the right to be herself. I had hoped our country had come further than this.
How many other groups of people are bullied because of who they are? How can we create a community and a country where acceptance of each other is the norm? What is my role in this process? Can one person make a difference?
My reflection this week is to be a strong friend and acknowledge the role of the bystander. I can notice when there is bullying and show my displeasure.
I can look out for my friends and neighbours who may be experiencing domestic violence and report it, help them find their voice to seek help. I can empathise with women such as my hairdresser who has to hide her true self. I can be a principal in a school who says that there is no place for bullying at any level of society. What are you prepared to do about bullying?
Beth Godwin, principal
Cabramatta High School