Speech by Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells

Interrelate Bullying Awareness Program and Say no to bullying Poster Competition Awards

Location: Powerhouse Museum, Ultimo


Well, thank you very much and can I start by thanking Stuart for his welcome to country.

Can I acknowledge Your Excellency, General the Honourable David Hurley, Governor of New South Wales and Patron of Interrelate; Chairman of Interrelate, Alan Gibson; CEO Patricia Occelli; our guest speaker Julia Weber; ladies and gentlemen; and most importantly, boys and girls and to those especially who have travelled such a long way to be with us today.

As Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Services, I am very honoured to be here to represent the Prime Minister of Australia, the Honourable Tony Abbott MP who has asked me to pass on his best wishes at this important awards ceremony for the Say no to bullying poster competition.

Can I also thank Interrelate for the invitation and also for the great work that you do.

Well done to everybody who took part and it’s great to see so many schools participating from all over NSW. I was really impressed to see your very creative and importantly meaningful posters. The key message that’s on those posters is standing up against bullying.

It’s great to hear the competition received thousands of posters about how you can stop bullying. We know that bullying at school or on-line is not okay. It never has been. So it’s important that everyone else knows that as well.

We need to speak out. It’s not OK to call each other names or treat each other badly. It’s really mean and hurtful.

The Prime Minister has put out a U-tube video where he speaks to the children of Australia and he says that bullying is hurtful and wrong and I would invite the boys and girls here and boys and girls around Australia to have a look at that video.

Today is the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence and one million students across Australia are joining you to stand together against bullying and violence at schools.

We all have different backgrounds. Many or our families come from all over the world. Sometimes we speak a language other than English at home. We have different faiths. This is what makes Australia such a special place to live in.

My Mum and Dad were born in Italy and moved to Australia in the 1950s – now that’s a very long time ago! But we spoke Italian at home and when I started school I didn’t speak a word of English.

I was lucky to grow up in Wollongong with children from many different backgrounds.

Almost half of us were born overseas or have at least one parent who was born overseas. We are a multicultural country.

But no one has the right to call you names or treat you badly because of the colour of your skin, your race, your religion or your language. It’s against the law. And when racism or bullying of any kind happens, we need to act against it.

It’s very sad to know that 200 million children and young people around the world are being bullied and Australia has been ranked number one worldwide for bullying on social networks – one in five children aged between 8 and 17 years have been exposed to cyber bullying.

The Australian Government is trying hard to stamp out bullying and racism, particularly in schools and by working together, we can make a difference and poster competitions like Interrelate are running are an important part of this.

Earlier this month, the Enhancing Online Safety for Children Bill 2014 was passed by both Houses of Parliament.

Yesterday, the Government appointed a children’s e-Safety Commissioner, whose work will be backed up by funding of $10 million, leading to certified online safety programmes that schools can use nationwide.

The appointment of senior AFP officer Alastair Macgibbon, I am sure, will be welcomed by everyone working in this space.

We are a committed partner with you against cyberbullying and we think it’s vitally important.

Can I conclude by saying a special thank you to Interrelate for running such a great competition and to you all for your amazing ideas to stop bullying.

I think every one of you who sent in a poster is a winner today — that’s because, with people like you, there will be fewer bullies and your schools will win out in the end.

They will win because you will help make them better and safer places.

So I ask you boys and girls to go out and share the great ideas that you have drawn in these posters, that you have seen in these posters, and take the new ideas home with you and use them in your schools to stamp out bullying.

Thank you.