‘They have been called wogs, kicked, and their lunch has been stolen’

The Gold Coast Bulletin - - NEWS - KIRSTIN PAYNE kirstin.payne@news.com.au

AN an­gry fa­ther says his daugh­ters have been forced into coun­selling be­cause their ex­clu­sive Gold Coast pri­vate school failed to tackle re­lent­less bul­ly­ing and threats of vi­o­lence.

The fa­ther of two said he was moved to speak out af­ter read­ing in the Bulletin yes­ter­day a des­per­ate mother’s cry for help to stop bul­lies threat­en­ing to stab her son to death be­cause “no one is lis­ten­ing”.

“The be­hav­iour is at the point where I am tak­ing a stand,” the fa­ther said. “Evil pros­pers when we do noth­ing.

“They have been called wogs, one has been kicked and their lunch has been stolen.

“They are just kids. Like sponges, they started to soak up ev­ery­thing, feel­ing worth­less. They started to feel they had no pur­pose. Thank good­ness I recog­nised it be­fore their self-es­teem and dig­nity went out the win­dow.”

The fa­ther said he had had a num­ber of con­ver­sa­tions with his daugh­ters’ school, Aquinas Col­lege, and was brought to tears last week when he heard

they were be­ing pushed to “com­mit” by other chil­dren.

“The girls have been told the will be made to ‘com­mit’, as in com­mit sui­cide,” the fa­ther said.

He had not in­formed the school of the lat­est claims.

Aquinas prin­ci­pal Peter Hur­ley said the school would in­ves­ti­gate all claims of bul­ly­ing.

“Bul­ly­ing is not tol­er­ated at Aquinas Col­lege and our pol­icy makes this abun­dantly clear,” Mr Hur­ley said.

“As soon as we are made aware of a po­ten­tial bul­ly­ing in­ci­dent, it is in­ves­ti­gated and ac­tion taken.

“If we don’t know about bul­ly­ing, we can­not re­spond so we ac­tively and gen­uinely en­cour­age stu­dents and their par­ents or care­givers to con­tact us.

“It’s ex­tremely dis­turb­ing to hear that chil­dren may be mak­ing com­ments to other chil­dren, en­cour­ag­ing them to self­harm and, of course, as soon as this type of thing be­comes known to the col­lege, our first ac­tion is to al­ways pre­vent, deesca­late and stop any harm­ful be­hav­iour.”

A mother of a stu­dent at Coom­babah High School yes­ter­day told the Bulletin she had been forced to keep her 13year-old boy at home be­cause of con­stant bul­ly­ing.

She said the school told her they would mon­i­tor the sit­u­a­tion and sug­gested he should move to an­other school if he felt un­safe.

Ben Brauer, pres­i­dent of New Be­gin­nings, a Gold Coast­based at-risk chil­dren’s ad­vo­cacy group, said dras­tic change was needed if par­ents were to be sat­is­fied that their chil­dren were safe.

“This needs to be tack­led at the min­is­te­rial level to cre­ate real change,” said Mr Brauer, who has worked with vul­ner­a­ble youth for 21 years.

“Sadly, the State Gov­ern­ment un­der ei­ther party seem to want to try their own so­lu­tions every three years. It’s re­elec­tion syn­drome.

“We’ve found that talk­ing to the Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment di­rec­tors, deputy di­rec­tors does not bring in the changes that are needed.”

Mr Brauer said bul­ly­ing was one of the big prob­lems fac­ing youth on the Gold Coast and was ex­ac­er­bated by the tran­sient pop­u­la­tion.

“The is­sue of dis­en­fran­chised chil­dren is ex­ac­er­bated here largely be­cause peo­ple move here in droves and leave be­hind their so­cial net­works.

“It has been the case since I started. A lot of peo­ple don’t re­alise the dis­con­nect that hap­pens. They have no one to fall back on.

“Schools are over­bur­dened with syl­labus and are flat out run­ning all they are tasked to run, chil­dren fall be­tween the cracks.

“Our aim is to stop teen bul­ly­ing and vi­o­lence be­fore it starts.

”If we can keep one child out of the jus­tice sys­tem or need­ing medical sup­port we can save the gov­ern­ment mil­lions.”

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