Interview on 2GB Breakfast with Steve Price
Topics: National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence; South Australian state election

Steve Price: Today, though, is the eighth National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence. I raised this on the program yesterday. I was promoting the fact that The Project on Channel 10 last night did an outstanding piece on bullying of youngsters, particularly school-aged kids. They got a group of well-known performers, actors, sports people to actually sell the message, but knowing that young people won’t listen necessarily to older adults telling them what to do about bullying. And we got calls yesterday about this immediately. I’ll speak in a moment with Simon Birmingham, the Minister for Education and Training on this issue, but here’s just a sample of a call we got yesterday when we raised the issue on this program of bullying.

Caller: The schools need to do more. My son’s got autism, he’s got Asperger’s. Yesterday at sport – he’s in year 8 – a couple of year 10s pushed him and pushed him and pushed him until he just lost it, and then one of the other kids coming in from the side and king hit him, sucker punched him. Knocked him out. And then all the blood was out of his face, coming out of his face, and my wife turned up. The teachers won’t even still- do anything. I feel like I can’t protect him, it’s unbelievable, mate.

Steve Price: That’s a father yesterday in tears. He was on his way home after night shift, he was going to have a shower, put on his suit and go to the school.

Simon Birmingham’s on the line. Minister, good morning.

Simon Birmingham: Good morning, Steve.

Steve Price: Have teachers got enough control over schoolyard bullying in your view?

Simon Birmingham: Well, that tragic call is a reminder that schoolyard bullying is as old as schoolyards themselves, that although we spend a lot of time nowadays focusing on the impact of cyberbullying and online instances, old-fashioned schoolyard bullying still exists and it is completely unacceptable and in a circumstance like that, I would hope and expect that the school would be throwing the book at the perpetrators involved because ultimately, that sounds like action that anywhere else in the country, we would call assault. And really, schools need to be making sure they take a strong stance there; that of course, you want to provide assistance to perpetrators to try to get them to mend their ways, but first and foremost, you do have to ensure the victims are protected and supported and assisted.

Steve Price: It’s the eighth National Day of Action Against Bullying, it’s a key event in any calendar, and there’s a record number of schools, I think, Minister, taking part this year. What worries you more, that old-fashioned style of bullying or the one that we find very difficult to combat, and that’s online bullying?

Simon Birmingham: Well, it’s all a concern but as a dad of two young daughters, I have to say that the modern scourge of cyberbullying and some of the tragic stories we’ve heard does terrify me as a parent somewhat, in that the following kids home and invading many aspects of their life nature to cyberbullying is a really concerning one. But ultimately, it starts with culture, respectful relationships, tolerance, inclusion, really the type of environment that schools, parents, all working together create for children, and that’s why this National Day of Action where we’ve got 4500 schools involved, encompassing around two million children across Australia, is an important opportunity to say to everybody: first and foremost, we tackle those cultural issues, we try to reinforce notions of respect and inclusion at every chance. But also then we have to highlight the opportunities for people to get help, whether that’s through specific programs like the Carly Ryan Foundation or the Alannah and Madeline Foundation programs. Whether that’s through our record investment in youth mental health initiatives like Headspace or our world-leading cyber laws such as the eSafety Commissioner’s powers to investigate and ultimately take down online content. And there’s a range of different responses that are available, and we just have to make sure that people are well aware of them and how to access them.

Steve Price: Advice to parents? The Project last night I thought did a fantastic job with their speak up, your voice counts piece that they did using a whole lot of celebrities off the back of the tragic death of Molly. What’s your advice to parents?

Simon Birmingham: Look, to parents, it’s trying to create an environment where your kids talk to you, first and foremost; to pay attention to what’s happening in their lives; to limit the use of technologies in private or secret spaces, to make sure that it’s as open an environment as possible so that parents know what’s going on and can seek help where required, and also to know that there are lots of different resources out there; the Bullying No Way website is a great source of information for students and parents, as well as principals and teachers, and to reach out and get that help where required.

Steve Price: Just before you go, you’ve got a handle on the South Australian state election? What do you think’s going to happen?

Simon Birmingham: I think we will see change in South Australia. It’s been a 16-year Labor Government who couldn’t keep children in child protection systems safe, and it saw elderly people abused in state-run aged care homes, couldn’t keep the lights on and has an economy that’s much flatter than the rest of the country. And so, there are many reasons for change, and I think we’ll see that occur with a Liberal Government elected in SA.

Steve Price: Good on you Simon Birmingham. Thank you for your time.

Simon Birmingham: Thank you Steve.