News

New direction for Bully Zero organisation

By Lachlan Durling

The recent day of action against bullying was a chance for an organisation with local ties to take a new direction.

Bully Zero aims to help children and adults combat bullying by offering advice and strategies.

District mother Deb Langshaw is an advocate for the organisation and spoke at the launch, bringing the room to silence and many to tears.

After her heartfelt plea for more to be done to combat bullying, Bully Zero chief executive Andre Carvalho announced the organisation would be taking a more direct approach with programs in schools and organisations.

‘‘We’ve launched our new strategy, a brand-new five-year strategy, which is an ambitious plan to reduce bullying in Australia. It is very different t what we’ve done in the past,’’ he said.

‘‘Fundamentally our focus is still the same, we exist to reduce and prevent bullying in Australia.

‘‘But we’re taking a different approach in how we do it and doing more on advocacy and more on supporting individuals and families who may be going through a process, which we didn’t really do much on before.

‘‘We’re just widening our scope but the core vision and the core mission of why we exist hasn’t changed. And that’s to do what we can to reduce the number of people who are bullied each year in Australia.’’

March 15 was the national day of action against bullying, where schools and organisations came together to raise awareness about the issue and develop strategies to continue to prevent bullying.

Ms Langshaw is a champion for the cause after she lost her daughter Amanda Grennan, who was incessantly bullied at school.

‘‘We knew a little bit of the story in terms of previous discussions that I had with Deb — but it’s fair to say she had everyone in that room in tears with such a raw, emotional story,’’ Mr Carvalho said.

‘‘Deb doesn’t like me saying this but she is an incredibly brave individual. The story she has been through is one that we see on a weekly basis but not everyone is able to speak out.

‘‘I want to thank her for her bravery and courage in speaking out about the issue. It’s a difficult topic and a difficult thing for Deb and her partner to do and to go through.

‘‘But it was such an important story and it’s the reason why we’re there in many ways.

‘‘It’s a difficult topic but sadly there isn’t enough being done from our perspective and so I think it was an important, difficult reminder of why we need to do what we do.’’

Bully Zero started in 2013, born out of a very similar story to the one Ms Langshaw shared — and Mr Carvalho said time had not dulled the impact of anyone’s story.

‘‘We had about 60 people from a range of different backgrounds — a number of families who have been impacted by bullying, stakeholders, corporate partners and local politicians.

‘‘It was a broad range of people but it was a very small, intimate event where Deb made a really big impact on the people in the room.’’

The new strategy for Bully Zero involves three pillars — education, advocacy and support — and Mr Carvalho said the pillars were something the organisation had already been working on, however offered a slightly different direction.

‘‘It is what we already do, but were changing the way we’re going to do it in terms of education,’’ he said.

‘‘For advocacy, we want to do a lot more to raise awareness around bullying in general society and its impact, as well as the ability to campaign to government, particularly from state to state.

‘‘It varies hugely from state to state in how bullying and harassment is handled by the courts, that is definitely an issue that we want to campaign more on.’’

For support, Mr Carvalho said the organisation was looking to launch a new service on July 1, providing guidance and advice to people experiencing bullying.

‘‘It’s not crisis support or counselling. It’s very practical in terms of ‘how do I stop the bullying I am experiencing?’,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ll have experts on the phone and online to provide practical steps people can take to reduce or stop the bullying they’re experiencing.’’

With such a broad scope across such a complex issue, Mr Carvalho said the organisation had its work cut out, but was confident everyone would have access to the support they needed.

‘‘We are the only organisation in Australia that focuses on bullying in general, so that allows us to focus on the issue completely,’’ he said.

‘‘But also we’re the only organisation that focuses on bullying wherever it happens, whether it’s in a school, workplace or the community — we certainly believe if we’re going to tackle bullying we have to tackle it from every side, not just by focusing on schools or individuals.

‘‘It is difficult (to incorporate such a broad scope of people) but it is something that has to be done because the issues are there and there are people going through it everyday.

‘‘Luckily we have a good base of people to support our organisation with funding and so we’re able to develop different programs with different organisations targeting different groups.

‘‘And while it’s a broad community we’re here to work with, we do have specific programs delivered by specific people that will focus on those different communities — it’s a challenge nevertheless, but it’s one that we can tackle with the right programs in place.’’

●If you need support, call Kids Helpline (1800551800), Lifeline on 131114, the suicide callback service on 1300 659 467 or visit ReachOut.com