Bullying, Young People and the Law Symposium

in Events

National symposium addresses issues surrounding bullying, young people and the law.

Should we have national, unified laws to address bullying? Does there need to be a legal definition of bullying? Should it be a crime? Our Bullying, Young People and the Law symposium didn't shy away from the tough but important questions.

The Bullying, Young People and the Law symposium brought together more than 100 legal, law enforcement and educational experts to discuss and debate legal issues surrounding bullying of young people in Melbourne on 18-19 July 2013.Symposium PhotoPhotoNational Centre Against Bullying Chair The Hon Alastair Nicholson AO QC RFD, Former Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, explained that the need for this conversation arose out of widespread concern about the problems bullying and cyber bullying can create for young people.

Current laws differ between states and the law does not currently define bullying or clarify the legal duty of schools, teachers, parents and carers.

Bullying has never been defined as a crime. Kids are never taught that if you do it, you will be breaking the law.
- Alastair Nicholson

"Making bullying an offence would help educate people and act as a deterrent. The law has a role to play in setting the boundaries as to what conduct is acceptable and lawful and what is unacceptable and unlawful.'' - Alastair Nicholson

After two days of discussion and debate, delegates agreed on a series of recommendations, including:

  • All Australian governments consider introducing a specific criminal offence of bullying.
  • A national digital communication tribunal be established to address cyber bullying.
  • The recent Victorian Law Reform Commission recommendations about sexting be adopted in all States and Territories.

Delegates felt it was important for the laws to be consistent across the nation and include penalties that in the case of children would not include incarceration. They also recommended any legal reform be supported by education initiatives, to ensure all Australians understand the laws around bullying and to help reduce the incidence of bullying of young people.

"Our intention is to use the recommendations to advocate for change. We will approach federal, state and territory governments, public service heads, as well as school, teacher and parent organisations and other interested groups and individuals," Mr Nicholson said.

Symposium speakers included Federal Minister for Education and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten, National Children's Commissioner Megan Mitchell, Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan APM, Judge David Harvey from the District Court of New Zealand, Director of Public Prosecutions Victoria John Champion and the President of the Children's Court of Victoria Judge Peter Couzens.

Importantly, young people were also part of the symposium and shared their views in a panel discussion.

Special thanks to our symposium partners - the Australian Federal Police, the Sir Zelman Cowen Centre (part of Victoria University), and Melbourne Short Stay Apartments.

Bullying, Young People and the Law Symposium recommendations

2013 Events Program

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