School bullying rates across the Latrobe Valley have declined over the past 10 years, despite recent media reports.
Reports last week highlighted the Valley as the state’s worst local government area for bullying, but data from the Department of Education reveals the district ranked outside Victoria’s top five.
The Valley currently sits in seventh position for reported bullying in the years seven to nine age group at 26.6 per cent – down from 41 per cent in 2006.
Numbers are also down in the grade five and six category, which is now at 22.1 per cent – a 10 per cent change from 2006.
It is welcome news for the region’s schools, who have been targeting bullying through awareness programs and welfare initiatives.
But they acknowledge it is an ongoing battle.
Kurnai College principal Anthony Rodaughan said while bullying was an “unfortunate fact of life” he believed bullying numbers were on the decline.
He said the key was to work with the victim and the bully to uncover any underlying issues.
“At Kurnai we work to support victims of bullying and build their resilience while giving them the tools to help cope with the situation,” Mr Rodaughan said.
“But we also work with the bullies with restorative practices to help them acknowledge their behaviour and understand what consequences their actions have.
“We have a whole range of people – wellbeing coordinators and advocates – at each of our campuses (that) students can talk to and I’m confident we deal with it in a much better way when we support both sides.”
headspace Morwell clinician Lochie Davey said bullying appeared less prominent than it had been in the past, but it was still an ongoing issue.
He said face-to-face was still the most commonly reported form of bullying despite a national increase in social media use.
“There’s definitely a mixture of online and face-to-face bullying. The face-to-face tends to be more prominent in my experience, but when you dig deeper you hear about the online stuff,” Mr Davey said.
The teaching of coping methods and building of resilience are core components of the youth mental health foundation’s bullying support service.
But Mr Davey said it was often the bully that required the most help, with underlining causes often leading to the behaviour.
“We’re almost working with the wrong people, it should be the bully that comes to us or we should engage with the bully,” he said.
Students experiencing bullying are encouraged to contact their school’s wellbeing coordinator.
Information about bullying and its effects can be found at headspace.org.au/young-people/understanding-bullying-for-young-people/
* Data taken from the Department of Education’s Attitudes to School Survey (AtoSS) which measures student perceptions of their experiences at school. The survey is conducted with students in years five to 12 attending Victorian government schools. In 2015, 96 per cent of government schools participated in the survey.