“I’M SORRY”, an anti-bullying event at Mt Eliza Secondary College on 17 March, coincided with the sixth National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence.
More than 250 students, parents and teachers were joined by members of the Live Out Loud organisation at the day and night sessions.
They aimed to equip students, parents, teachers and residents with a range of bully-prevention strategies, as well as the ability to stand up and eradicate bullying for good.
Helping lead the event was Mornington’s 2016 Youth Citizen of the Year, 17-year-old Tia McLean.
Last year, Ms McLean organised a youth summit at the school and now she and her group want to tackle bullying in schools across the Mornington Peninsula.
She teamed with Live Out Loud’s Steve Brunskill, an education provider with more than 20 years’ experience in school resilience and leadership programs, to organise the “I’m Sorry” event.
Education professionals from Project Rocket – Iness and Evelyn Field – outlined bullying and cyber-bullying topics to teach participants strategies to positively and effectively manage bullying scenarios.
The event also focused on the bully, starting a new conversation that is hoped will act as a preventative measure. The self-confessed bullies were invited to share their bullying experiences and to apologise for being a bully, Mr Brunskill said.
“One student told how he bullied a boy in primary school so badly that the boy attempted suicide. The bully, shocked, saddened and remorseful, visited the victim, apologised for the hurt he had caused and now the two are best friends.”
He said a powerful message to come out of the event was: More respect = less bullying.
Mr Brunskill said Live Out Loud sees bullying as “one of the major issues of our time”.
“We also believe that most bullies are remorseful for the pain they have caused and, often, bully others because they, themselves, are dealing with feelings or circumstances they may not know how to handle,” Mr Brunskill said.
“As such they can lash out at those around them. Clearly, this cannot continue. We hope that this event is a catalyst to stop bullying for good and we believe that starting with the bully is a really powerful strategy.
“If we can prevent the bully from lashing out, we can reduce the number of victims and effectively reduce bullying.”
In the two months leading up to the “I’m Sorry” event, Mr Brunskill and Ms McLean worked with community groups, schools, councils, businesses and young people to plan and develop its effectiveness.
“It is hoped that it becomes a call to action for youth, to start a movement called Youth Out Loud that stands up against bullying and makes a positive change in our society,” Ms McLean said.