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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 24 June 2010) . . Page.. 2415 ..

MR BARR: I thank Ms Hunter for the question. This is an important issue and one that the education department—and indeed every single school in the territory—is grappling with. I think the most important initiative system-wide has been the establishment of a safe schools task force and the involvement in that task force of a number of key stakeholders. I am particularly pleased to be able to extend an invitation to the Youth Advisory Council to be represented on that safe schools task force, which also draws representatives from organisations as diverse as the parents and citizens association, the Australian Federal Police and various representatives from non-government schools across the territory.

It is an important organisation and group which has been tasked with a range of important advisory roles and also a range of important implementation roles in relation to the rollover of a number of new policies across the ACT education system; for example, the new code of conduct of students—in fact, for all on school grounds, but most particularly students, teachers and those who work on a day-to-day basis within our schools. That new code of conduct is in place as a result of the work of the safe schools task force.

There is also work underway in relation to cyberbullying. There are now new guidelines in place and new rules within the education system, most particularly in public schools, in relation to the use of various devices—mobile phones et cetera—and also guidelines around the use of various social networking sites; for example, MySpace, Facebook, Bebo and others that are utilised by students.

There are a number of reforms in place. The safe schools task force continues with its work. Recent events in other jurisdictions relating particularly to violent incidents—some, I believe, in Queensland have resulted, tragically, in the death of a student—have certainly led to a greater focus at a national level as well on these issues. Education ministers met in Perth earlier this month and have now established a national day of action against bullying and harassment. I believe that it is on the third Friday in March of each year that we will see a coordinated national action.

As I have said in relation to this matter on a number of occasions, schools play a very important role in addressing these issues. They are part of the solution, not part of the problem. I commend the work that is occurring at individual schools and across the system through the safe schools task force to address these issues, recognising that we have a long way to go. But every day more than 65,000 students interact across 150-odd campuses in this territory. Unfortunately, with that many people and that many interactions there are going to be issues from time to time.

We will be successful in eliminating bullying and harassment in our schools when we are successful in eliminating bullying and harassment in our society. Making our schools safe and making students feel safer is an important task. It is one that students have a leadership role to play in as well. We look forward to the continued work of the safe schools task force and the involvement of students themselves in seeking solutions to this problem.

MR SPEAKER: Ms Hunter, a supplementary question?

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