After the tumultuous year that was 2020, school communities are now working hard to ensure their students feel safe, supported and connected in the new school year. What better way to come together and create a sense of belonging than to celebrate two major events: the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence on the 19th March, and Harmony Week from the 15th to 21st March.

Why are these events important?

Bullying and cyberbullying continue to be a major concern for schools. A recent study by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute found alarming rates of bullying amongst Australian students between grades 3 and 8, with 86% of students reporting being bullied at least once in the past four weeks. The longitudinal cohort study also revealed that 66% of students reported frequent bullying and 37% reported frequent bullying in multiple forms, such as physical and verbal attacks. 

Another recent survey of students, conducted by The Australian National University and Western Sydney University, also found concerning rates of racism in schools. In this study of more than 4600 primary and secondary students, one-third reported experiencing racial discrimination from their peers, and close to one-third had experienced racial discrimination from wider society. The survey also found that six out of 10 students had witnessed racism.

The impacts of bullying and racial discrimination in early life can be profound. That’s why researchers and policy-makers agree that high quality, whole-school bullying prevention programs are needed to address racism and bullying in Australian schools. Events such as the NDA and Harmony Week help to promote safer and more supportive school cultures, in which the whole school community takes a stand against bullying and discrimination. These events can be used to promote and strengthen existing anti bullying programs and student wellbeing programs, and encourage bullying ‘upstander’ behaviour and other positive behaviours in schools.

Promoting inclusiveness and respect in your school

Harmony Week is all about celebrating Australia’s cultural diversity and nurturing a culture of inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for all Australians. By celebrating Harmony Week, schools are sending a strong message that all students belong, and that everybody deserves to feel safe and respected at school, at home, online and in their community.

Schools can start by spreading the word on social media and encouraging students to create their own promotional materials using the Harmony Week key messages. You might plan your own mini ‘multicultural festival’ or hold a poster, photography or song writing competition.

Many schools book incursions to support their Harmony Week celebrations, such as a live theatre in education performance from Brainstorm Productions. The primary school program ‘The Magic Words’, for example, is a fun and engaging way to promote inclusion, and learn about how values and respect are celebrated around the world.

Schools often book a live Brainstorm performance in the lead-up to the National Day of Action, or on the day, to support their anti bullying program and stimulate discussions about bullying, cyberbullying, respectful relationships and positive bystander behaviour.

Bullying. No Way! provides some additional tips to help schools organise NDA events and activities that will raise awareness of how to prevent and respond to bullying.

Some of their suggestions include:

  • Involving the whole school community in the events, and inviting teachers, students, families and community members to participate in the activities;
  • Organising professional learning activities for staff, to help build confidence and skills in implementing bullying prevention and intervention strategies;
  • Raising awareness by promoting the National Day of Action, displaying posters and NDA materials around the school, in the newsletter, on the school website and on social media;
  • Sharing how your school is celebrating the NDA by posting photos with the the hashtags #BullyingNoWay, #NDA2021 and #TakeActionTogether on your social media platforms;
  • Empowering student leaders to come up with innovative ways to prevent bullying in your school and create a positive school climate.

We can’t wait to get involved with Harmony Week and the National day of Action this month! Follow us on Facebook and learn more about how to implement effective anti bullying programs with our Anti Bullying Guide for Schools.