When you’re young, you really hope that when you walk out of your school gates for the last time that you leave the bullies behind. I certainly did. I don’t harp on about my time in school because I was bullied almost every day until I got to year 11. For me, it isn’t the actions of the bully that sticks with me the most – it is actually the action (or lack thereof) taken by those around me. You think and hope that someone witnessing your soul and confidence being crushed would stand up for you but as school can be somewhat of a survival of the fittest, many people stay silent. I don’t blame them, but it did make me promise myself to always stand up for others where I could.
I was giving a talk to students studying media recently and up the front were some keen beans. They were so interested in media, particularly radio and asking 100 questions. Every time they would put their hand up I would see eyes roll at the back of the class. Unfazed by this, I continued talking to the class but would occasionally drop hints that it is a small industry and you should just carry yourself through life with love blah blah blah but I am sure that meant nothing to the backseat bandits.
At one point, one of the keen beans made a statement in regards to a media reference, which was correct but they had clued on quicker than the rest of the class so I said we would get there in a second. One of the backseat bandits then did a slow clap. Keen bean’s head dropped and I thought a nugget was going to drop on the classroom floor. We’ve all been there.
In that moment, my heart sank – for both of them. For the keen bean because I could tell that it was an often occurrence. And for the backseat bandit because I could see he loved media and can make a real go of it, but at 18 he was just making silly mistakes. Backseat bandit would see what they did as harmless, but it is a form of bullying and I called them out on it. Lightly, but it was a hand break in the morning and I am pretty sure their guts made their way to the mouth momentarily. Backseat bandit will probably hate me for the rest of their life but as I stood in front of an entire class of young adults, I saw that no one was going to stand up for the keen bean so I decided to. And I want everyone to do they same in the safest way possible if they witness someone being bullied, be it big or small.
A good friend of mine Mel Greig has been taken to task over the last couple of years due to her involvement in the infamous ‘Royal Prank Call’. Mel felt like she didn’t have many people in her corner and hearing her talk of her dark times is scary. Mel is now an Ambassador for The Bully Zero Australia Foundation, who are doing amazing things to support and educate the community. Take a look through their programs and see if there is a school or workplace you can recommend them to. Stand up for the people who aren’t just being bullied now, but for the ones who could be.
I do not feel defeated by my time in school due to bullying, but it certainly took me a long time to come to peace with it. There are so many people who never overcome their nightmares from bullying and that takes a toll on them. If you can find a way to support BZAF, be it with a donation, booking a guest speaker or attending one of their fundraisers – please do. Perhaps I might see your face at their Charity Ball in Melbourne on Saturday 10th September and we can have a dance together.