Bill's Speeches

Bully Zero Australia Foundation





It’s an honour to be with you once again on this National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence.

It’s very kind of the Essendon Football Club to host us today – and very good of them to tolerate the presence of a known Collingwood supporter like myself.

I congratulate and thank the Bombers, and Melbourne Victory, for the charity partnership initiatives they have formed with the Bully Zero Australia Foundation.

Both clubs, and both codes, are doing great work in this area.

As are all the other partners and sponsors, too numerous to name, who give such strong support to this foundation.

Commendably, 100 per cent of donations to Bully Zero Australia Foundation go directly to their programs and initiatives, so all of you who give so generously can be confident that you are making a real and material difference to their work.

Today is an important day – a reminder to all Australians that the scourge of bullying casts its shadow over millions of lives.

A day when we remember the tragic deaths of those pushed beyond breaking point by the physical and psychological torment of bullying.

I know that some of you here today have suffered the unthinkable tragedy of losing a child to suicide.

I am in awe of your strength at being here – and in channelling your grief into support for this cause.

You are heroes – to me, to all of us, to parents everywhere, and I salute you.

For all of us, today is a day for remembrance, and raising awareness - but most importantly it is a day of action.

A day when we send a clear message: bullying is cowardly, bullying is cruel, bullying is wrong and bullying must stop.

In schools, in workplaces, community groups and sporting clubs we remind ourselves that every day should be a day for action against bullying.

Right now, 1 in 5 Australians are being bullied.

On this day of action we say that one Australian being bullied is one too many.

That’s the admirable ambition of the Bully Zero campaign.

It is a commitment to eliminate the problem, as well as deal with its effects.

A promise to show no tolerance for bullying, or violence, wherever it occurs.

As Workplace Relations Minister, my focus was naturally on helping employees deal with bullying in their jobs.

I am proud that we amended the Fair Work Act to give employees the right to go to the Fair Work Commission if they were being bullied at work.

A protection that extends to everyone, from permanent staff and contractors, to apprentices, trainees, work experience students and volunteers.

I am confident that these measures will go some way to addressing the huge economic and social cost of workplace bullying in Australia.

But today I’d like to speak to you as a parent, as well as a parliamentarian.

Like all Australian parents, Chloe and I want our children to be happy and resilient – to spend their school days making friends and discovering a love of learning.

It is the instinct hard-wired into the DNA of every parent – the desire to keep our children safe.

In our rapidly-changing world this is harder than ever.

In the digital age, bullying doesn’t stop at the school gate.

The cruel comments, the hurtful insult, the humiliating nickname can follow you onto your Facebook wall and into your inbox.

Today, hard as it is to admit, our children are not safe from bullying just because they are under our roof.

That’s why the scourge of cyberbullying is so terrifying – and the work of your foundation is so important.

Thanks to the research of Bully Zero Australia, we know that even when children are the victims of cyberbullying, they are often reluctant to confide in their parents.

They believe that there is an unbridgeable gap between how their parents see the internet – and how they do.

Many children feel that their parents don’t understand the significance of the internet in their lives.

This says to me that we need to do more to give parents the tools and skills to combat cyberbullying.

We need to help parents monitor online behaviours – and talk about the risks and boundaries with their children.

Because the second major factor in the reticence of children who are suffering from cyberbullying is their fear that their parents will simply confiscate the technology.

That’s an understandable protective instinct – but not a long term solution.

Above all, I think parents can set a positive example.

As a community, indeed as a nation, I think we would benefit from re-assessing our relationship with social media.

In a recent Time magazine survey, 85 per cent of American smartphone users said they couldn’t go a single day without their phone.

And 80 per cent of Americans aged between 18 and 24 indicated that they sleep with their phone next to them ‘like a teddy bear’.

I’m not sure the Australian figures would be much lower.

A hundred years ago, the Swiss author Max Frisch said that:

‘technology is the knack of arranging the world so that we need not experience it’.

I think this is a real danger if we allow a dependence on digital communication to act as a substitute for human relationships.

As parents, as role models, we can do more to encourage our children to make friends – not just add them.

To share experiences, not photographs.

To value the moment more than the meme.

That’s the essence of the 48 Hour Digital Detox.

An initiative that encourages schools, workplaces, sporting clubs and community groups to reduce their social media use.

This might mean handing over their mobile phones to a trusted friend or disconnecting from the internet for a weekend.

It’s about taking the time to be offline – and enjoying the lived experience of authentic, tangible social interaction.

As well as that – it’s an interlude that gives participants the chance to reflect on their use of technology.

It lets us think about the way we share information, whether we respect our own privacy – and the privacy of others.

I think the 48 Hour Digital Detox is a great initiative – and I hope it gathers strength in the years ahead.

I know how dedicated all of you are to building the Bully Zero Australia foundation and expanding its reach into the community.

I hope you can also take a moment today to reflect on how far you have come in just one year.

It is a remarkable achievement and one that should fill you all with pride.

I wish you every success in the future and assure you I am always willing to do what I can to support your cause.

Congratulations – and thank you.