Interview on Channel 7 Sunrise with David Koch
David Koch: Now to our ongoing campaign to beat the bullies. New statistics show reports of cyberbullying have increased by 28 per cent. There have been 264 harassment complaints since 2017. The Office of the eSafety Commissioner has completed over 30,000 investigations into illegal and offensive content. Hugh Jackman is taking action too. A message he posted to a 10-year-old bullied girl has gone viral. He told her she’s loved, special and smart. But, are we doing enough to stop the bullying? Joining me now, Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham.
Minister, thanks for joining us. Now, what do you reckon has caused the increase in cyberbullying complaints? Are more kids aware of it and coming forward?
Simon Birmingham: Well, Kochie, thanks and thanks for having us on. Look, the eSafety Commissioner is a relatively new entity. It’s one that our Government, the Turnbull Government, put in place. And so, part of the spike is no doubt an increase in awareness, but we don’t pretend that there aren’t also problems in terms of increases in incidents. But, I would say that any complaint is one too many. Any incident is one too many, but I do welcome the fact that more people now – more children, more parents, more teachers – are reaching out to the eSafety Commissioner. They’ve conducted information sessions that have contacted or connected with around 400,000 parents, teachers or students. And what we’re seeing is the result of that, more people are using those world leading powers to have complaints investigated and to ultimately have material taken down.
David Koch: Because it all goes to the coalface, doesn’t it? Into the schools, sort of- our campaign here on Sunrise is for compulsory education programs within our schools – day in day out – for the kids, teachers and importantly us parents, because we’ve got to get on top of it, don’t we?
Simon Birmingham: Awareness is key. It’s key to changing the culture, to make sure that we actually have schools that are environments of kindness, respect and tolerance. And it’s key that where the wrong thing does happen–making sure that kids know how to reach out to help, who to reach out to for help, and what that help looks like. Now, it takes the whole school community, as you rightly say – teachers, parents, students – all working together. And just last month, we had nearly two million Australian students participating in the National Day of Action against Bullying, where they learnt about the right steps they can take in their school communities. They also learnt about the hundreds of millions of dollars we invest in youth mental health programs, so that they know the types of organisations to reach out to.
David Koch: Well, minister, thanks for joining us. We are passionate. Glad you are too. Appreciate it.