With tomorrow being the ‘National day of action against bullying and violence’, it is appropriate to take a look at the causes of bullying and the possible ways to take action that will bring real results.
The fight against bullying will not be won in the media, but at ground level where a cultural shift is needed.
School chaplains have a unique vantage point from which to view the effects of bullying in schoolyards. Our focus on pastoral care and the welfare of students puts us on the front line, supporting student victims and their families as well as helping bullies understand themselves and overcome their negative behaviour.
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Australians have faced up to it - our workplaces can be very nasty places. The victims of workplace bullying are too often left jobless, angry, uncompensated, lonely, panic-stricken wrecks.
A new independent right to complain about workplace bullying announced by the Gillard Government is a major step in the way we contemplate workplace rights. But will it work?
The details are scant; Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten says the plan would allow the Fair Work Commission to try to solve disputes or refer matters back to state workplace safety authorities. The Commission may be able to issue civil penalty orders and fines as high $33,000.
Best case scenario - working life may well get better for hundreds of thousands of Australian workers.
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A new report examining the costs and consequences of poor workplace behaviour suggests that only 16 per cent of victims believed their situation improved after making a complaint.
In what is believed to be one of the largest analyses of Australian workplaces behaving badly ever undertaken, it is sure to send a shiver down the collective spines of unions, company directors and politicians.
The Australian Institute of Workplace Behaviours (AIWB) has surveyed over 2100 victims of bullying and sexual harassment. The results are damning. Especially on how managers and observers respond to complaints - resulting in higher operating costs for business and emotional misery for those on the receiving end.
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Dear Mr Jim Wallace, head of the Australian Christian Lobby,
I think I know why so many gay men commit suicide.
Maybe part of the problem is it’s both deeply embarrassing and hard to articulate what it’s like to be the victim of homophobic abuse to someone who has never experienced it. According to the Suicide Prevention Australia, 200 gay teenagers commit suicide each year, that’s about one in every two days.
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This horrible turn of events with Charlotte Dawson proves that bullying isn’t just in the schoolyard.
Bullying can happen in all walks of life, in classrooms, offices, on the streets, in pubs.
And now, bullying follows you home through the internet. It’s very real problem for adults and it’s a problem to which we have not yet found a solution.
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They say that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to stand by and do nothing. That seems to be the case with workplace bullying – where organisations and individuals look the other way while workers are victimised.
The case of Karen Klein: Workplace bullying at its worst…
Work is one-third of our lives. It is important for our self-esteem. Sustained bullying at work can poison the rest of a person’s life and does long-lasting damage to their mental health. Bullying in the workplace is one of those things that is difficult to define, but most people know it when they see it.
The key elements of most definitions include repetitious, unreasonable, or unfair and inappropriate behaviour that attempts to undermine a worker or group of workers. Add to that personal attacks on a person’s ability, work ethic, appearance, background or other details and you have a classic case of serious bullying.
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If we look under the rug of workplaces, we might see a mountain of things swept underneath, one of which might be a crumpled list of offending employees.
No, not for stealing the office stationery, but far something far more severe and far less dealt with.
Workplace bullying is a new crime that rarely sees justice. Few workplaces care about it. You couldn’t cut through the apathy with a saw.
As more dire details ooze out, it becomes clearer that something has been festering in Defence for decades.
The Government released the DLA Piper report into allegations of sexual and other abuse in Defence yesterday, and it was grim reading. Our military institutions over the past six decades have provided an excellent petri dish for abuse, cultivating many factors that increase risk.
Many of the findings were released earlier this year. Of 775 allegations most were plausible and “probably substantially accurate” and there were probably many more that weren’t reported to the review.
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Some of the comments on Lucy Kippist’s recent blog about US TV news personality Anderson Cooper going public about his sexuality included questions about why anyone needs to be “out”.
Well, for starters, constantly having to police yourself and edit your conversations at work out of fear that being the real you could derail your career is exhausting.
In Cooper’s case, his employers and those important to him knew. As Lucy wrote, he came out as an act of “solidarity with the millions of gay and lesbian people who are still marginalised and living their lives in fear of violence and bullying.”
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If you cast your mind back to your childhood, most people can remember being on the receiving end of bullying.
These memories are often painful and acute. I don’t mean that in a sort of Californian psychobabble sense, as if to cry out for what the Yanks call “closure” for the exaggerated horrors of a tormented childhood. It’s just that these memories are deeply resonant.
You can remember exactly how you felt at the moment you were being called names or pushed around, as if it had only happened yesterday. Just as painful are the shameful memories of those times when we joined in with the bullying of others.
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We should be preparing children for a life full of bitter disappointments. Magic might not happen. Just because you dream it doesn’t mean you can do it. Someone has to come last, and sometimes it will be you.
According to research, telling little Tyler that he is a golden angelic mini-God who can fly to the moon and be an Olympic champion and that his crayon drawings are the precursor to a life of creative brilliance will not only turn him into a prat, but could turn him into a bully as well.
RMIT psychology lecturer and bullying expert Professor Helen McGrath says the “failed self-esteem movement” has led to children with an overinflated idea of themselves, and these little emperors are more likely to be ringleaders when it comes to bullying.
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ClubsNSW is set to introduce a fresh new effort to combat schoolyard intimidation, insisting on a principal’s reference for young job seekers so they can rule out those who had been involved in bullying. It’s a bold step, which ClubsNSW chief executive Anthony Ball says could be a deterrent for any young person worried about their future job prospects.
“If students have engaged in serious bullying, cyber stalking or threatening behaviour clubs will not hesitate to reject their job application,” Ball said.
Students who own up to and show remorse for their schooldays’ behaviour may be given an exemption. The thing is, some of the nicest adults you’ll meet will admit after a few wines to having indulged in some pretty nasty bullying at school. One woman I know, who is a selfless, generous, intelligent adult, didn’t attend her first school reunion because she was worried about what reception she would get from some of the people she socially tormented at school.
So today’s question - once a bully always a bully? How long should you pay for your teenage bad deeds?
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My daughter came home from her school camp on Friday and when I asked who was in her cabin, she said, ‘two really nice girls and some mean girls. We tried talking to them but they completely ignored us.’
Aaagh! Mean girls! Sugar and spice laced with arsenic.
Bullying of all descriptions is abhorrent. Last week’s viral footage of bullied Sydney boy, Casey Heynes, ground-slamming his young taunter in the playground, polarised those who saw it. Many were appalled at the potential lethality of the act and at the outpouring of support for Casey that followed it. They jousted with those for whom it seemed that watching Casey deliver brutal come-uppance to his bully was almost voyeuristically cathartic.
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This Casey kid, this accidental hero, slamdunked that bully as though he’d been watching his fair share of WWF.
(Warning: Completely unrealistic portrayal of what actually happened)
What Australians - and worldwide audiences, apparently - warmed to, though, was not the violence itself but the good guy vs. bad guy dynamics of the situation. The underdog trumping the leader of the pack.
Casey Heynes, 16, told A Current Affair he just snapped under pressure. He broke the rules, and became a champion of the downtrodden.
UPDATE: The kid who apparently provoked Casey now claims that he was himself the victim of bullying - and that Casey started the fracas. It remains unclear whether public opinion will now swing behind the little guy…
About 10 years ago in southern California a young fellow by the name of Ryan McPherson hit upon the idea of bribing homeless people with bottles of bourbon to fight each other, and to film the ensuing brawls for a series of movies entitled Bum Fights. The movies, four of which were made, were hailed as just the latest example of a sick society in irreversible decline.
Homeless groups said the movies encouraged violence against people living on the streets, as well as dehumanising and mocking them. Amid threats of legal action, the producers agreed to stop making the films, and were forced to pay compensation to some of the homeless men involved.
The idea of filming a staged fight between the homeless as a form of entertainment would be regarded by a normal person as offensive to dignity and decency. In Australia this week we’ve learned that a depressing number of people – tens of thousands of them in fact – will have a hearty chuckle watching a couple of kids laying into each other in the schoolyard.
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On a recent trip the US I read journalist Dave Cullen’s book about the Columbine massacre. With a spate of highly-publicised suicides there apparently linked to bullying, and a subsequent rash of legislation in various states designed to “combat” the phenomenon, Columbine is a timely publication with much relevance to our own national debate on the subject.
In his book, Cullen demolishes one of the central and most persistent myths of the Columbine massacre: that a pair of misfits with artistic and intellectual tendencies were hounded by meathead jocks until they finally snapped. Instead he paints a chilling portrait of a malignant relationship between a psychopathic narcissist and his angry and malleable best friend.
Yes, the Columbine kids were picked on, argues Cullen, but not as badly as many others and they certainly displayed no ideological biases when it came to blowing away their classmates.
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Facebook is an easy target. With its size and history of privacy gaffes, criticising it is like taking aim at the proverbial barn door.
The same could be said for the online world in general. When we are faced with a social problem, from cyber-bullying to privacy breaches, it’s much easier to blame technology or the company that provides us with it than to take responsibility ourselves.
We can truthfully say that the internet has changed us, but once we start talking about how and why we need to factor ourselves in as well.
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There’s a hidden epidemic of bullying in Australia – and it’s not in the schoolyard. The corporatisation of universities has led to an increase in students bullying their lecturers for better marks.
“It’s often the international students, whose families have sacrificed so much to send them to university,” says one lecturer in the arts and social sciences faculty at the ANU.
Dr. Janet Shepherd* admits bumping up one student’s Credit to a Distinction, because he stalked and harassed her daily via social media.
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Once upon a time, in a 20th century age of ‘things’, people used to make sense of who they were by what they owned – land, house, car etc.
Today, in the age of communication, people are defined by who they know and what they share.
The phenomenal success of Web 2.0 vehicles such as Facebook and now Twitter (which I was told by a reliable source this week has seen 6,500 per cent growth in users in the last financial year), has demonstrated an astonishing need for people to connect and interact as the basis of their identity and wellbeing.
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The bashing death at school of a 15 year old boy in Mullumbimby last week is a symptom of a much bigger statewide problem in schools.
Put simply teachers now have little control. The consequences for students of bad, even violent behaviour, are now so insignificant students simply don’t care.
A teacher cannot restrain a student at all, they can’t yell at students or else they will be accused of emotional abuse. A teacher must simply say “please don’t do this” and then hope they are obeyed. Step outside this rigid set of rules and you risk being “EPACed” - every teacher’s worst nightmare.
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By all accounts Jai Morcom was your average Aussie high school kid. The 15-year-old student had a good circle of friends who describe him as a peaceful and happy young man.
Last Friday, Jai found himself at the centre of what sounded like a fairly routine schoolyard squabble, a fight over who was allowed to sit at a lunch table.
The result of this squabble was anything but routine. Jai Morcom is dead. He was bashed so savagely – possibly because he was trying to break up the fight – that he died of massive head injuries on Saturday morning.
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The silent epidemic - bullying - is being confronted with screams for help. Incidents of cyber bullying, workplace bullying and violence are being reported like never before.
The emerging pattern of teenage suicides, evidently linked to cyber bullying, marks a new-age epidemic that must be stopped.
In 2003, Melbourne medical experts described bullying as the silent epidemic. But now, it’s loud and clear how bullying is impacting on our generation living in cyberspace. And it’s not just in cyberspace where bullying is rife. It’s in the playground, the workplace and on the streets.
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The bullying epidemic has claimed yet another victim: 14-year-old bubbly, fresh-faced Chanelle Rae.
Rae’s funeral took place in Geelong on Friday, exactly one week after the high school student took her own life hours after reading a message on the internet.
We will never know what that message said, but we can guess at the kind of person that sent it.
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