Page 718 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 8 March 2005

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gave her the rounds of the kitchen, accusing her of bringing the school into disrepute. He capped it off by imparting the information to this parent that the minister was very angry.

Minister, there are many parents out there who are very angry, there are many teachers who are feeling disempowered and threatened in their classrooms and who are very angry, and there are lots of very frightened children out there. The last person on this list who needs to be very angry is the minister for education. The mothers that I spoke to were very angry, at the end of their tether, and thought that it was the height of indecency that this minister should be very angry.

I have encountered some very interesting events as a result of my inquiry. One ACT government employee has been counselled by her employer that she should not contact me or take her case to me, which could be a breach of privilege, and in at least two instances where parents or guardians have made complaints about bullying it has resulted in the parents or guardians themselves being referred to the child protection service—again, a completely inappropriate response. In fact, coincidentally, I was rung today by a guardian who had complained to a school about ongoing bullying of her ward, which had resulted in family services turning up to their home to investigate the family problems in their household, not addressing the ongoing and persistent bullying by students in this child’s school.

Minister, there are many angry parents out there and there are very many concerned children. The ones who are bullied are often required to sit in the principal’s office during playtime while the bullies roam around the playground terrorising other children. There are many instances of children who are bullied—this is one of them—becoming doubly victimised. Not only are they beaten up by kids on the playground, but also they are held apart for whatever reason or they are sent to another school because they cannot cope with the system any longer. That means that we are seeing a doubling of victimisation.

What I really want out of this matter of public importance is an admission by the minister and the department of education that they have a problem. Let us not hide our heads in the sand any longer. The minister needs to stop being angry herself and answer the questions of the parents. She should not be taking action against people who are spilling the beans; rather, she should be taking action to ensure that the education authorities are doing something more than signing us up to nationally approved guidelines that do not support or deal with children who manifest naughty, disruptive, intimidating and violent behaviour.

Mr Speaker, the impact of bullying is far reaching, not just on the lives of the victims but on the perpetrators as well. It creates stress, fear, long-term psychological impacts such as obesity, self-mutilation—the list goes on. This minister and this department need to own up to the fact that they have a problem, as the New South Wales government has done and other governments have done, and address it fairly and squarely for the benefit of the children that they care for.

MR HARGREAVES (Brindabella—Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services, Minister for Urban Services and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (3.46): I thank Mrs Dunne for raising this matter, although I must add that I have some

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