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Help to battle the bullies
Help to battle the bullies

A former chief justice of the Family Court has called for national laws to deal with bullying in the school yard and cyberspace.

Alastair Nicholson also says parents and schools should be made legally liable for failing to address bullying behaviour, even if it's off campus and outside hours.

Speaking at a conference for the National Centre Against Bullying, of which he is chairman, Mr Nicholson told reporters he did not believe "too many" parents would be forced to pay damages if they were made legally responsible for their child's bullying antics.

"If there's a concern that they might, they might take their responsibilities more seriously and the same can be said about ... schools," he said.

Schools needed to be aware how far their responsibilities extended when it came to addressing bullying, Mr Nicholson said.

"There's a strong argument for example that if a child is being bullied at school and the bullying continues at home and the school becomes aware of it, that the school does have an obligation to try and do something to stop it, whether it's at home or in the school grounds," he said.

Mr Nicholson called for national laws to address the gap, as current laws had not caught up with new problems emerging from cyber bullying.

He argued "Brodie's Law", introduced by the Victorian government last year after the suicide of 19-year-old workplace bullying victim Brodie Panlock, was too broad.

"I'm not sure if it's particularly useful if it's dealing with bullying in the schoolyard or in cyberspace," he said.

"It's got another real limitation and that is it's a piece of Victorian legislation so what happens if the bullying comes from over the border?"

Victorian Education Minister Martin Dixon defended the untested Brodie's Law, which includes penalties of up to 10 years jail, as adequate to tackle bullying and cyberbullying in schools.

"We're very confident that that legislation will work in those circumstances," he said.

Mr Dixon said everyone in society, including parents, community groups and schools had to be accountable for bullying.

The state government has pledged $14.5 million towards combating bullying, including an eSmart initiative targeting special schools.

How you can help to combat bullying

In Melbourne's south-east, students Jessica Cummings and Adelaide As-Kwith are doing everything they can to combat bullying.

The pair have set up an online petition and Facebook page calling an end to bullying.

Over the past twelve months, ten of their peers have taken their own lives because they were bullied.

"A close friend's brother took his own life last year. The devastation that that caused was heart breaking," Adelaide told Seven News reporter Emily Angwin.

"We feel it's really important that the adults in our life start talking to us, and try to help us out because we're really struggling."

For more information about the campaign, visit the websites below:


Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263) or visit www.beyondblue.org.au.