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Thursday, 1 March 2018
Page: 2496

National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence

Ms MARINO (ForrestChief Government Whip) (14:12): My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister outline to the House the importance of the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence and the support the government is providing for this important initiative?

Mr TURNBULL (WentworthPrime Minister) (14:12): I thank the honourable member for her question. The honourable member has been an eloquent and powerful advocate of the need to educate children about the dangers of bullying. I've been with her when she has been speaking to school groups. She is as formidable in the classroom as she is in the House, and she leads by example. It is a very, very important part of all of our work. So many members here, I'm sure, on both sides are taking action with their school communities to make sure that students, parents and teachers are aware. The member for Fisher and I have been talking about these issues very recently, just yesterday, and I commend the work he's doing as well.

We live in a world bound by the cybersphere. We all have smartphones. Our children have smartphones. This is a very recent technology. The first smartphone arrived on the scene about a decade ago. While there are enormous benefits, what it means is that the bullying that used to end at the school gate follows children home to their bedrooms. It's with them all the time. The consequences can be tragic. We're all familiar with the terrible case of Amy Everett, who took her own life, a young girl who was the victim of bullying. Lucy and I have been with her parents and her sister. It is heart rending. Every parent and grandparent in this chamber understands the challenge that we face in keeping our children safe. We need to have a change of culture in our schools and in our society to say, 'No bullying—zero tolerance for bullying and violence at schools.'

The government chose to tackle this problem head on by establishing the Children's eSafety Commissioner, and we've since expanded the role of this important agency so it's truly a national coordinating body for all Australians. The eSafety Commissioner, who is Julie Inman Grant, is doing an outstanding job. Her predecessor, Alastair MacGibbon, did a great job. But so often the online bullying is really just an extension of what you might call bad old-fashioned bullying that is going on in the schools. That's why we're supporting the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence on 16 March.

Senator Birmingham, the Minister for Education and Training, and I have written to every school principal in the country, encouraging them to participate in this important initiative. So far more than 2,300 schools have signed up. It's time for all of us to take a stand. It's time for all of us to say no to bullying. We have a responsibility as parents and grandparents to set an example for our own children and to ensure that our kids are safe from bullying and violence at school and online, wherever they may be.

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the Opposition, on indulgence.

Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (14:14): I wish to associate the opposition with the remarks of the Prime Minister. I congratulate the Prime Minister on the initiative of writing to school principals. Parents raise the scourge of bullying with me in all the forums I attend. Parents are concerned with not just cyberbullying but what can happen to their kids at school. A parent's worst nightmare is not being able to protect their kids. Bullying is a tremendously disempowering experience, and I congratulate him on his initiative.