Government seeks expert advice on bullying

The Marshall Liberal Government will this week seek advice from the state’s leading legal, education, parenting and policing experts on ways to better protect children from bullying behaviour.

Attorney-General Vickie Chapman will today host an Advisory Roundtable on Bullying of children and young people in schools, to hear directly from experts in the field, and to provide the Government with high-level input on the important issue.

“There is no place for bullying in our schools – it is repeated and harmful behaviour that can have far-reaching and sometimes devastating consequences, and it is important that we hear from those people who deal with it on a day to day basis,” Ms Chapman said.

“I am committed to looking at what legislative reforms we could introduce to toughen our stance on bullying. Today’s roundtable is all about hearing from those with specific technical and legal expertise, listening to their advice and then looking at what possible action we might consider in the future.”

Bullying encompasses a diverse range of behaviours repeated over time, ranging from name-calling and threats, social exclusion, online bullying and even physical assault.

Attorney-General Chapman said that while a range of programs and initiatives were already in operation, a more cohesive and consistent approach was needed, with more clarity over the current legislative powers.

“Schools are already targeting bullying and cyberbullying through a range of strategies in the effort to maintain a safe learning environment for students,” Ms Chapman said.

“Early intervention and educational responses are critical to reduce unacceptable behaviour, build resilience and respond effectively when bullying occurs, but I am wanting to hear about how our current legislation is applied, specifically, is it strong enough or do we need to do more?”

The Bullying Roundtable participants include 24 experts in the areas of legislative reform, legal practice, policing, prosecuting, mental health services, academics (bullying focus), educators, parents and young people.

The Attorney-General’s Advisory Roundtable on Bullying in South Australia will consider two questions:

  1. Given the range of criminal offences that may relate to bullying for which young people can be (and already are) charged in South Australia, is further criminal legislative reform required?
  2. Criminal law is one lever available to Government when tackling complex issues. When considering bullying holistically, this could also include legislation relating to the safety, health, welfare, and education of young people. What options for legislative reform in these areas could deliver change?

A summary report will be prepared from the session.