Page 726 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 8 March 2005

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primary school, because it is particularly in the early years of high school that parents need support, especially working parents who are not able to be there when their children come home from school. What we need to do is put children together in places and in situations where their power relations are changed so that the child who is a bully in the classroom, because he is always failing, is allowed to succeed in the playground after school. We need to shuffle children around, give them different experiences, different ways of interacting.

Finally, I think we need always to be cognisant that children, even more so than adults—I believe adults are capable of changing at any time in their lives, too—are extremely responsive to their environment. Their environment shapes them and they act as their environment. They do not always understand why they act the way the do and it is too easy for us to typecast a child, to brand him or her as the bully, as a victim. Once we typecast a child, we are not allowing that child the capacity to be as they really are.

I think bullying is a symptom. It is a name for a very broad range of behaviours and, as a caring society, we need to do whatever we can to assist parents and children, particularly, who are suffering at either end of that spectrum.

MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (4.16): As raised by my colleagues Mr Hargreaves and Dr Foskey, bullying and harassment are complex issues for the whole community and they cannot be effectively addressed by short-term reactive measures but by fostering long-term cultural change. This is a huge challenge but one that can be met by our schools through a variety of programs to meet the needs of their communities.

Today, I bring the Assembly’s attention to the difference that restorative practice is making in our school communities. Some members may be familiar with restorative justice, which seeks to divert offenders from the criminal justice system and provide restitution to victims. Restorative practice in schools seeks to prevent bullying and harassment from occurring by changing the whole school culture to one of inclusivity, understanding and respect.

In addressing instances of bullying and harassment, restorative practice emerged from a system of rigid consequences to one where restitution is possible. Restorative practice has been trialled in many schools in Australia and internationally and the Department of Education and Training has an implementation working party to foster a culture of action within schools and further embed restorative practices.

The purpose of the working party is to develop guidelines regarding procedures, practices and ethics to support the development of best practice and to coordinate professional development of school staff. Currently 16 ACT government schools have committed to restorative practice and are developing their own school plans for implementation. Restorative practice is in keeping with the Department of Education and Training guidelines and strategies such as the protocols for student management and the multi-disciplinary team approach for supporting students. This government has put a youth worker in every high school as part of our commitment to supporting students most at need, including those who need strategies to relate more positively to their peers.

Restorative practice in schools supports a whole school cultural change that has a strong focus on strengthening relationships. The school community works together to build

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