Time to get tough on cyber bullies

Riley Riley

It’s nine years since Australia’s first victim of cyber bullying took his life.

Melbourne teenager, Allem Halkic, was just 17 when he decided he’d had enough.

The bully, a former mate, got off with an 18-month community service order.

Since that time only a handful of prosecutions have taken place, compared to thousands of reported cases in relation to bullying and cyberbullying, says the Bully Zero Australia Foundation (BZAF).

The recent tragic death of 14-year-old Amy ‘Dolly’ Everett, the Northern Territory teen who took her life after being cyber bullied, has put the issue firmly back on the agenda.

Bully Zero Australia has called for tougher laws to combat bullying.

Who else has to die before harsher penalties and prosecutions are put in place to hold perpetrators accountable?

Ironically, tomorrow is Safer Internet Day, a worldwide event with this year’s theme: “Create, connect and share respect: A better internet starts with you”.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will table cyberbullying for addition to the agenda of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agenda which meets February 9.

“I firmly believe that we are just skimming the ocean of a big issue where bullying and harassment is now following young
children in to the family home,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

Bully Zero applauds both Premier Palaszczuk’s move and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to add the issue to the agenda.

However, it seems much of what Premier Palaszczuk plans has already been implemented, says Bully Zero’s Michelle Murray.

“This is a crime. People are driven to end their lives as a result of the bullying. In many ways, it’s no different to the one
punch law,” she said.

“If the bully hadn’t said the words, the victim wouldn’t have been driven to end their life. Just like if the person hadn’t delivered the one punch, the victim would still be alive.”

An estimated 2500 Australians commit suicide each year.

Bullying is a factor in some deaths and many could have been prevented with intervention which begins with education programs delivered by organisations like BZAF.

Launched in 2012, the foundation has provided support to victims and families for over five years with limited government

It specialises in education programs in schools and the workplace, as well as being a certified provider of cyber safety programs nationally and recognised by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

Murray says a week of talking about cyberbullying is a great idea.

However, actions speak louder than words and BZAF calls on the government to support organisations already achieving much and requiring just a little bit of support to stop the trail of death cyberbullying leaves in its wake.

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