Page 722 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 8 March 2005

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involved in any way. Mrs Dunne ought to apologise unreservedly to Charnwood; in particular, to its assistant principal, who was defamed in the news report.

Having said that, incidents of bullying and harassment are indeed serious and are always subject to investigation, with the support needs of all involved being the overriding priority. Like many reports of serious incidents, any thorough investigation needs to respect all parties and recognise that at times, unfortunately, misinformation and allegation can delay a resolution. Schools, the Department of Education and Training and the government understand that. It is about time Mrs Dunne did too.

We cannot ignore the fact that, unfortunately, there will be those in our community who will seek to assert power over others through harassment and intimidation. However, bullying in any form is never acceptable. All members of the community can play a part in ensuring that respect and tolerance are valued. Our community must continue to support schools to address incidents of harassment and build a society that does not tolerate bullying. It is up to everyone in our community, including members of this Assembly, to lead the way by example and action to ensure that the places where we live, work and study are safe and supportive for all.

Bullying has been a practice that has gone on in schools since the dawn of time. It is an unacceptable practice. There are many people in this chamber, across both sides, who have experienced bullying in schools. I know that I certainly did for all 12 years of my schooling. I am sure that it had an effect. The members of this Assembly ought to be using a united approach to getting rid of it, not using it for self-aggrandisement, not using it to get our names in the paper and not using it to exploit the pain of others. That is yet another exercise in bullying.

MR SESELJA (Molonglo) (4.00): We have heard from Mrs Dunne of a number of impacts that bullying is having. The area I want to address is the impact on teachers. Bullying places a much greater personal and professional burden on teachers, who are often expected to act as surrogate parents, something for which their training does not prepare them. Often, parents get into the act as well, blaming teachers for the parents’ own inadequacies. It has long been recognised that teachers are often subjected to violence and verbal abuse from students—leading to death in Queensland on one occasion.

Student misbehaviour was one of the dominant themes of the 2002 inquiry into the provision of public education in New South Wales. About 30 per cent of successful workers compensation claims in the NSW education department are for teachers with stress-related illnesses. Some NSW teachers are being trained in physical assault response techniques—a program learning how to avoid confrontation but, as a last resort, how to physically restrain violent students, not to mention their parents.

Indeed, the situation is now so bad that the authors of a paper in the current Journal of Occupational Health and Safety: Australia and New Zealand argue that classrooms should be designed more like juvenile detention centres, with teachers advised not to wear jewellery, ties or scarves in case these are used to strangle them. Not to put too fine a point on it: the job of a schoolteacher has less and less to do with teaching itself. Indeed, in some schools, it may be considered almost incidental.

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