Page 630 - Week 02 - Thursday, 17 February 2005

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biological reasons for differing levels of achievement between men and women in science.

Mr Hargreaves: He also apologised.

MR SESELJA: He was forced to apologise, unfortunately. These kinds of hysterics in response to reasonable statements stifle debate in our society, and Dr Foskey’s claims in relation to my inaugural speech are just another example of this. Science is quickly catching up to common sense on the issue of gender differences.

Dr Foskey also claims that having a minister for men would be divisive. I just want to follow the logic of that. A minister for women who is responsible for addressing issues particular to women is a good thing, but a minister for men charged with addressing issues that particularly affect men is divisive. I do not quite understand the logic in that argument. The issues I raised in my inaugural speech are real. Dr Foskey may wish to downplay them, but issues such as the shocking levels of male youth suicide and falling educational standards of boys are significant and need to be addressed. I will continue to advocate for government action in these areas.

Bullying at schools

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (5.44): I had hoped to speak today in the matter of public importance debate about the increasingly serious problems with bullying in ACT schools. On occasions I have brought to the attention of the Assembly the problem of bullying of teachers by other teachers, and I am becoming increasingly aware of the problem of teachers being bullied by students. I am personally acquainted with a youngish teacher who is on extended Comcare-approved leave after incidents of bullying by students at a Canberra high school.

Today I want to draw to the Assembly’s attention the increasing incidence of unacceptable bullying. This is not low-level bullying; this is systematic bullying that appears to be occurring in a number of schools. It is important to bring this to the attention of the Assembly.

During the annual reports hearings a week or so ago we discussed with officials from the Department of Education and Training what they were doing to address the issues of bullying that were occurring. They said they had signed up to a national framework. I asked, “Is everyone signed up to the national framework?” They said, “Yes, Mrs Dunne, everyone has signed up to the national framework.” I asked, “Are there any instances of bullying? Can I be guaranteed that everyone has signed up and therefore there are no instances of bullying and bullying is not a problem in ACT schools?” They said, “Bullying is not a problem in ACT schools; everything is fine in the garden.”

Because I raised this issue, I have been inundated with problems relating to bullying. I will not name any people or schools, but I received the following comments:

I recently took my daughter out of the high school where she completed Year 7 last year. During the year she had a knife pulled on her, was attacked with rocks and verbally harassed constantly. She had things thrown at her in class and could not ever go to the toilets as they were places where drugs and cigarettes were sold. There were often fights.

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