Bullying

Bullying is never ok. At school you have the right to feel safe and protected. If you can’t talk to someone face to face about what is going on, we encourage you to call the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. They provide free phone counselling 24 hours a day/7 days a week.  Sometimes there can be a delay in getting through, so we encourage you to keep trying. You can also chat online with someone during certain hours here.

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Bullying

Bullying is repeated behaviour that:

  • is harmful;
  • targets a certain person or group of people; and
  • embarrasses, dominate or intimidates the person being bullied.

It may include:

  • verbal insults like teasing, name-calling, harassing;
  • physical behaviour like hitting, kicking, pushing;
  • “mucking about” that goes too far;
  • cyber-bullying like offensive messages or posts on social media; or
  • anti-social behaviour like exclusion, gossip, spreading rumours or offensive gestures.

Bullying can happen anywhere like at school, in parks, on your way to school,  in other places used by the school or online.  

Is bullying illegal?

Bullying can be illegal. It is a crime for someone to:

  • be physically violent towards you;
  • intimidate or threaten you;
  • stalk you (stalking includes following, watching, or contacting you repeatedly in a way that scares you);
  • damage or steals your things; or
  • harasses you because of your race, gender identity, sexual preference, HIV/AIDS status or disability. You can read more about discrimination here.

It becomes cyber-bullying if they use their mobile or the internet to do any of these to you. It is also a crime to cyber-bully someone. 

Bullying at school

All schools have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff and students. This includes taking steps to support students who are being bullied by their peers. This can include being pulled by classmates outside of school hours or off school property e.g. being cyber bullied.  It should have a clear procedure for students to report bullying, and provide support for students who have been affected by bullying. If you go to a public school, this will include having an anti-bullying plan in place to deal with bullying and cyberbullying. You can ask your school about their anti-bullying plan and see what the school is doing to stop bullying from happening.

I’m being bullied at school - what can I do about it?

Bullying is not ok and you don’t have to put up with it. You have the right to feel safe. You may be able to solve the problem by just ignoring the bully. But if you feel threatened, or you are being bullied at school or outside school, you tell someone about what is happening to you. Someone at your school should respond to the situation.

Lodge a formal complaint with your school

The school has a legal duty to do something about the bullying if it is happening at school. If telling someone is not enough to stop the bully’s behaviour, you can make a formal complaint to the school. Ask your parents or someone you trust to help make the complaint with you, especially if you are scared or worried about it.

Make a complaint to the Department of Education or other governing body

If you’ve complained to the school but they haven‘t done anything, you can make a complaint to the governing body for your school. If you go to a public school, this will be the Department of Education. You can contact the Department of education here. If you go to a private or independent school, contact your school office to find out how you can make a complaint about the school.

Make a report to the police

If someone has been or has threatened to be physically violent to you or sexually harassing you, you can report this to the police.

Seek protection from police

Courts are able to make an ‘Apprehended Personal Violence Order’ (APVOs) to protect you from people who are stalking or bullying you. The exact orders will depend on the individual case, but will determine if they are allowed to contact you (including by phone or on the internet). The order may impose certain conditions and restrictions on the bullies such as keeping them apart from you in school.

You can voluntarily apply for an APVO at your Local Court if you are 16 years or older, however it would be more practical for your parent or guardian to make the order for you. If you are under 16 years, only a police officer can apply for an APVO on your behalf.  If you’re under 16, the police must make an application if they believe you are likely to be physically threatened or injured or suffer significant emotional or psychological harm. You can find some information on how to make an application here.

Take legal action

In some instances you and your parents can take legal action against the bullies or the school. This is because the school has a “duty of care” to ensure the safety of all its students by requiring a regular level of teacher supervision. In simple terms, this means that the school must ensure that there are enough teachers around that will make sure any cases of bullying are observed and dealt as often as possible. But before your parents think about legal action, it is important that they speak to your school first and see if they can sort out the problem at that level.

If deciding to take this approach it’s important to be aware of any time limitations. For an action in negligence the limit is 6 years from the date of the offence but we recommend you commence legal action as soon as possible while the evidence is still fresh.    

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