Interview on Channel 7 Sunrise with Sam Armytage
Topics: National Day of Action against Bullying

Sam Armytage: Almost two million students will get involved in a National Day of Action against Bullying today. It’s the Federal Government’s annual awareness program to let bullying victims know what resources and support groups are available to them. It also guides students and teachers in the right direction to combat bullying. And joining us now from Adelaide is Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham. Minister, good morning, welcome.

Simon Birmingham: Good morning.

Sam Armytage: Why has there been a rise in participation in the program this year do you think?

Simon Birmingham: Like really heightened awareness. It’s encouraging that since the Prime Minister wrote a few weeks ago to Australian schools, the participation rate has doubled and that means that essentially half of Australia’s schools, around 4500, encompassing some two million Australian students are going to participate in this National Day of Action. They’re going to have the discussions about how you create a culture of tolerance and respect, one that doesn’t have bullying anywhere within a school environment, but also where it does occur how you make sure that the help and the resources are available for schools, for parents, for students, to be able to counter it, address it, and make sure that people are supported.

Sam Armytage: Okay, this is a really good start. So what’s on the agenda for those who sign up to today’s Day of Action? Got two million kids here, what are you going to do with them?

Simon Birmingham: So, the schools across Australia are going to do a raft of different things today. Some of them will take pledges, will have discussions about how they can make their school place more tolerant, more respectful, friendlier towards everybody who’s part of that school community. Others will make sure that it’s not just a student-focused effort but one that does involve parents, teachers because ultimately it’s a whole of school community initiative to create the right type of environment in schools to stamp out bullying.

Some will focus in on the very good programs that are run around the country, programs like that by the Carly Ryan Foundation or the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, which I know you’ve been doing such great work promoting. Others, we’ll have a look at the world-leading initiatives we have in Australia such as the eSafety Commissioner which has put in place new laws and powers to make sure that Australian students, where they are feeling threatened online can have action taken to have material removed. So it’s really about raising awareness of how to stop bullying occurring, but where it does happen, how to make sure schools know how to respond.

Sam Armytage: Yeah, we’ve been running this campaign for a couple of months now on how to beat the bullies and it’s getting a really good response. Two weeks ago the Prime Minister wrote to school principals to ask them to stop bullying, how did they respond to the PM?

Simon Birmingham: Well, principals have responded really well by of course choosing to embrace today. Now, it’s not just a one-day year event though, to make sure you have respectful environments in our schools is a year-round initiative. So that’s why in a few weeks’ time we’ll follow up the National Day of Action with me sitting down with all of the state and territory education ministers to talk about the best practice things happening in each of their jurisdictions and their schools to make sure that we are sharing the different lessons out of the day and out of their year-round commit to try to stamp this out.

But I do want to send a big thank you to the 4500 schools who’ve chosen to participate, who are making sure they lead the way in this regard and we want to learn from what they’re doing on the ground to ensure that we can share that with every other school in the country so that next year we know we’re doing even more.

Sam Armytage: That’s great news. Simon Birmingham, thanks for your company today. For those wanting to get involved in today’s anti-bullying event, the details are on our website.