School bullying programs must address risk to vulnerable students

Greens spokesperson for education Hon Alison Xamon MLC has called for investment in school bullying programs that specifically address the risk to vulnerable students, including Aboriginal students, those with disability, LGBTI students and those from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Speaking in Parliament in the lead up to National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence on 15 March, Ms Xamon said that bullying can have lasting effects on children and their families, and can impact on mental health and wellbeing, physical health, school attendance and school achievement.

“According to Headspace, up to 46.8% of Australian secondary school students report they have been bullied in some form over the past 12 months,” said Ms Xamon.[1]

“Children who are bullied are more likely than other children to be depressed, have low self-esteem, experience headaches, miss school, and/or perform badly at school. They are also more likely to think about suicide or plan for suicide.”

Ms Xamon noted that prolonged bullying could be fatal.

“We are all aware of tragic cases like that of 14 year old Amy “Dolly” Everett who ended her life after being targeted by cyber-bullies.”

“Economic analysis by PwC for the Alannah and Madeline Foundation last year found that bullying costs an estimated $2.3 billion over 20 years for each school year group,” said Ms Xamon.

“Some students are at greater risk of bullying, and studies have found that LGBTI young people may face up to twice as much abuse or violence (including physical, mental, sexual or emotional) as other students.”

 “Bullying is also a significant and widespread problem for students with disability, with six out of ten reporting being bullied because of their disability”, said Ms Xamon.

Ms Xamon said the fact that bullying rates are so high clearly indicated that our schools are not yet safe spaces for all students.

“Every student has the right to a caring, positive school environment,” said Ms Xamon.

“Research shows that anti-bullying programs can make a significant positive difference and dramatically reduce bullying. It is vital the Government invests in these programs across all WA schools.”

“Our schools should celebrate diversity, and our school staff should be equipped with the skills they need to be able to support all students, particularly those we know are more vulnerable to bullying”.


[1] Hemphill, SA, Tollit, M, & Kotevski, A. (2012). Pastoral Care in Education, 30(2), 99-112

Picture of two students talking