Page 728 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 8 March 2005

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are bringing about significant and sustainable cultural change for parents, teachers and students.

As I mentioned, restorative justice takes into account that all parties involved need to be supported. Bullying sometimes is a result of a person being under pressure in some part of his or her life. We must recognise that individuals respond to pressure in different ways. For example, at a recent function at the Australian National University, which I attended and at which I spoke, Mrs Dunne was put under pressure by students during her address. They were reacting very negatively to her opinions—in fact, some students’ reactions to her address were quite strident. However, Mrs Dunne responded in a way that I would label inappropriate by directing a four-letter profanity at a member of the student community. I suggest that this exchange could be seen as bullying by a person in a position of power.

The ACT government is committed to the provision of safe and supportive environments in all education institutions including Canberra’s universities for all people and, as such, I encourage Mrs Dunne to examine her own reaction at the time and see how the principles of RJ could be used in such a circumstance. As I said, bullying and harassment are serious issues. I believe it to be imperative that we provide the support mechanisms for all members of our community to deal with pressures in a responsible way. I believe that our schools should be congratulated for their commitment to minimising these harmful incidents, and their commitment to building a safe and supportive environment for the whole community.

MR PRATT (Brindabella) (4.23): I commend Mrs Dunne’s MPI. Picking up on that last comment from Ms Porter, I would be interested to hear what the background to all of that was. Anyway, back to the fundamental issue at hand.

Bullying and violence in schools is an Australia wide problem—indeed, it is a problem in the western world—with the ACT being relatively better off, compared to other jurisdictions in this country and elsewhere, regarding levels of bullying and violence. However, the levels of bullying and violence in the ACT are still unacceptably high and the trends have been on the increase not the decline.

Now bullying and violence plagues all of our school systems in the ACT. It is not just one sector that we are looking at. We are looking at a problem permeating all of our school systems and we need to see programs put in place by this government which give guidance and which hold to account all school systems in relation to the concerns about bullying and violence. Let us not pussyfoot around: bullying is a crime against the individual. It is a crime. Bullying generally occurs not only within schools but also around school precincts, school bus stops and on buses. As a community, we need to be very much aware of this.

How often have schools been involved in actively combating this particular scourge? How often have they involved the police, when perhaps the police should have been brought in? I understand that schools are reluctant to get the police involved. There is a concern about naming the school, and the school’s reputation. That is understandable but there are times when the level of bullying and violence has reached a point where a crime has been committed and, in fairness to the victims, to the families, and to the school’s family support bodies, police action ought to be welcomed. When I talk to

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