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Monday, 3 November 2003
Page: 21744

Ms GAMBARO (3:20 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Education, Science and Training. Would the minister outline to the House what action the Australian government is taking to combat bullying in schools?

Dr NELSON (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —I thank the member for Petrie for her very strong commitment to the protection of children in schools and especially for disseminating the Humpybong state school antibullying booklet. There are many things that, as parents, we want from education for our children but perhaps none more so than to be able to send our children to a school in which we feel that our children are safe. The extent to which we are committed to protecting the transition of our children through childhood and adolescence to adulthood is one of the critical measures of a caring society. Bullying in Australian schools might once have been trivialised by some people, but this government takes it extremely seriously. Last year one in six children was bullied on a weekly basis. Almost half of Australia's schoolchildren were bullied at least once throughout last year. We also know that boys are twice as likely to be engaged in bullying than are girls and we also know, sadly, that children who are bullied are more likely to suffer from stress, to have absences from school, to have lower academic performance and, sadly, at the extreme end there is increased drug use and completed suicide, which is two to three times higher.

This government takes these measures very seriously. There are a number of things that this government is now doing to see that our children are protected in schools. Firstly, the government has taken the lead in developing the National Safe Schools Framework, with the support of the Australian Democrats, to which all of the state and territory governments have now agreed. It will be a requirement when the legislation is introduced next year for the next four years of Australian government funding for schools that every school in this country—government schools and non-government schools—have a systematic plan established and readily available to parents to show how they propose to recognise, prevent and deal with bullying. The government is investing $4½ million in specific measures to assist in the prevention and management of bullying. It includes $3 million in the first two years for the professional development and training of teachers to make sure that they are well across the appropriate way to deal with bullying in school.

One million dollars will be invested in specific programs to evaluate the effectiveness of any initiatives that are undertaken. This is obviously an emotive area, but we want to make sure also that money and effort that are invested in this area actually deliver the outcomes that we need. Three hundred thousand dollars is being invested with the Australian Principals Professional Development Council, and a resource kit will be delivered to every school in Australia in relation to advising them how best to deal with bullying. The government are also investing $200,000 in the Bullying. No Way! web site, which is currently attracting 500 visits a day. As I announced last year, the government are also strongly committed to supporting and expanding programs for values in schools, because in the end, as talented as we want our children to be, it is character that really pays off.

Mr Howard —Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.

The SPEAKER —Before members choose to leave the House, can I indicate to them that I would like to make a short statement concerning events surrounding the visits of President George W. Bush and President Hu Jintao. Members may of course leave the chamber, but I would appreciate them doing so immediately.