University of South Australia bullying expert, Associate Professor Barbara Spears has commended the State Government’s new community approach to bullying behaviour, saying the policy initiative,
Connected – A community approach to Bullying Prevention within the school grates and Beyond, is ground-breaking in its approach.
“This is the first time any Australian jurisdiction has taken a community-wide approach to managing rates of bullying behaviours among young people, reflecting an advanced understanding of the problem and a progressive approach to the solution,” Assoc Prof Spears says.
A veteran of bullying research, Assoc Prof Spears was a chief investigator for the Youth Exposure to Cyberbullying project which informed Commonwealth policy regarding managing legal and civil responses to cyberbullying
More recently she conducted the review and update of the National Safe Schools Framework for Education Services Australia and the Department of Education, which resulted in the new Australian Student Wellbeing Framework, which has informed the development of the new SA Government strategic policy approach.
Assoc Prof Spears says bullying can be so much more complex than cruel words or physical roughness in the playground at school.
“Modern technologies allow for bullying to become a relentless and psychologically invasive assault on the victims, at the same time as supporting anonymity for the perpetrators,” she says.
“Recognising that the problem of bullying is not uni-dimensional and especially that it is not something that stops at the school gates is a huge leap in understanding. Schools reflect the communities they operate in, so how the community addresses bullying is important.
“This state-wide strategy means it can be tackled as a community-wide issue, that we can look at the cultural changes required to address and reduce bullying, the policy changes that need to be adopted across the board, and the things we need to do as parents and friends to help create safe environments for children and young people and to build their resilience and self-respect.”
Assoc Prof Spears says she is heartened by some important initiatives such as the requirement for all schools to adopt a bullying prevention policy; specialist training for teachers; specialist and integrated education for students about bullying, including curriculum content on bullying and the law.
“I see this initiative as a real game changer,” she says.
“There is a real connection between government departments to work together on this, including SAPOL, the Departments of Education, Health and Wellbeing and the Attorney General’s Department.
“Understanding that this something we can’t just leave up to the schools to resolve is a reflection of policy maturity and recognises the importance of the community in the development of civil, safe societies.”