Editor’s let­ter:

The Australian Women's Weekly - - Contents - Ni­cole By­ers Editor-in-Chief Email me at awwed­i­tor@bauer-me­dia.com.au Fol­low me on Instagram @nicoleb­by­ers

from the desk of The Weekly’s Ni­cole By­ers

You wouldn’t know it from look­ing at my photo here, but I’m tall. Re­ally tall. The kind of tall that pro­vokes strangers to pass com­ment. Some­times it comes in the form of an over­heard whis­per: “Gosh, look how big that girl is!”. Other times it is the more di­rect “Oh wow, how tall are you?” (186cm, if you must know), or my per­sonal favourite: “Your hus­band must be a gi­ant” (ac­tu­ally, he’s a pe­tite, not-quite 180cm). As strange as I find it that peo­ple feel the need to com­ment on my phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance in this way, I can hon­estly say it doesn’t bother me. It could be that I’ve sim­ply grown used it, or the fact that with age comes self-ac­cep­tance.

How­ever, at 13 and al­ready 182cm tall, it was a dif­fer­ent story. As any­one who’s ever been an awk­ward teen knows, be­ing dif­fer­ent isn’t al­ways a good thing. Be­ing dif­fer­ent and in­tro­verted as I was made me the per­fect tar­get for bul­lies.

So, I had a rough cou­ple of years at school.

I was heck­led in the halls and ha­rassed dur­ing lunch. Girls on the bus would chant “big bird” and block my way. I hated it. I would wake up in the morn­ing feel­ing sick. At breaks I would try and make my­self in­vis­i­ble, hid­ing in cor­ners of the li­brary or, at my low­est points, in a toi­let cu­bi­cle. I stopped tak­ing the bus. On the days I couldn’t face it, I skipped school com­pletely. I got de­pressed. I know my mum wor­ried about me, es­pe­cially when she found an angst-filled note I’d writ­ten about my sit­u­a­tion. But mostly, when I was home, I was happy. I could close the door on the bul­lies and lose my­self in a book, or just en­joy spend­ing time with my fam­ily, who loved me.

Sadly, that com­fort is some­thing young vic­tims of bul­ly­ing are de­nied in to­day’s dig­i­tal age. Their tor­men­tors fol­low them home. They’re in their bed­rooms with them, on their phones. They’re bom­bard­ing them with hate­ful mes­sages via so­cial me­dia and fill­ing the in­boxes on com­put­ers they should be us­ing to do their home­work. The bul­lies are em­bold­ened by anonymity to say cru­eller and more ex­plic­itly hate­ful things. They even goad vic­tims into sui­ci­dal thoughts. This is why the case of young Amy “Dolly” Everett, who at just 14 took her own life after a vi­cious on­line bul­ly­ing cam­paign, and those like her, are so dis­turb­ing. When I look at my young daugh­ter, not yet three and full of wide-eyed in­no­cence and joy for life, I am filled with fear for her fu­ture, and an acute feel­ing that some­thing needs to be done. In the wake of her death, Dolly’s friends and fam­ily have set up the Dolly’s Dream Foun­da­tion char­ity group to help fight bul­ly­ing (visit go­fundme.com/dollys-dream-foun­da­tion for de­tails).

One young woman who is help­ing make a pos­i­tive change in the way teens in­ter­act and treat each other is Par­a­lympian Jes­sica Smith.

Her pow­er­ful story about reach­ing the depths of de­spair and re­build­ing her life is truly in­spi­ra­tional (see page 36). Even more so as she now ded­i­cates her­self to help­ing change chil­dren’s at­ti­tudes, urg­ing them to prac­tise ac­cep­tance of each other’s dif­fer­ences as well as their own. A phi­los­o­phy that is worth liv­ing by, what­ever our age may be.

LEFT: The Weekly team with Fiona Falkiner (cen­tre) at Wylie’s Baths in Coogee, Syd­ney. BE­LOW, LEFT: Wendy White­ley (cen­tre) with The

Weekly’s Juliet Rieden, and Jane Cramer. BE­LOW: We caught up with cook­ing icon Rick Stein (cen­tre) and wife Sarah (right) at their home in Mol­ly­mook , NSW.

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