Spreading kindness in the playground: 1 in 2 Aussie kids still experience bullying

Nellie (with mother Kirrilea) is an ambassador of YOU CAN SIT WITH ME, a peer-led kindness and inclusivity program designed to create caring school communities.

Research recently released by Tip Top, a much-loved Australian bakery company, found that more than 50 per cent of Australian parents and caregivers suspect their child has experienced bullying at school.

Two in five Australian parents feel ill-equipped to proactively address the topic of bullying with their children at home.

The report also highlighted that parents are often challenged with navigating difficult conversations about bullying at home.

This was the case for mother Kirrilea when she found out her daughter Nellie, 12 years old, was keeping her bullying a secret.

“Nellie was in Year 1 when she was forced to do jobs for this student.

“Sadly, a few students realised that joining in this behaviour was easier than standing up to it. Nellie was then told she wasn’t wanted at the school, she was called ugly and she was a witch.

“Just before Nellie was going to be starting in year 6, we were contemplating moving schools, but Nellie was so mature and decided that why should she have to change schools especially since that was going to be her last year at the school she had started at,” Kirrelia continued.

“Nellie decided to go into Year 6 with her head held high, and just keep going.

“In early Year 6, Nellie felt something was needed to help other students if they were feeling the same as she was, and that’s when Nellie asked if we could try and find a program or campaign that could possibly help and that’s when we found  ‘YOU CAN SIT WITH ME’.

“We emailed Sophie (the founder) back and forth and explained the situation regarding Nellie, and Sophie then awarded Nellie as an Ambassador for the ‘YOU CAN SIT WITH ME’ kindness, and inclusiveness campaign,” Kireelia added.

Nellie said that she kept the bullying close to her for a couple of months as she was too scared to tell anyone, even her parents.

“One day this student pushed me and I had to go to sick bay. That’s when I really knew that this was not OK and that we had to do something about it,” she said.

Founded by teacher Sophie Sparks in response to non-inclusive behaviour witnessed in schools, YOU CAN SIT WITH ME is a peer-led kindness and inclusivity program designed to create caring school communities.

The program has now been launched in more than 900 schools across Australia since 2015 and involves student ambassadors wearing highly visible yellow wristbands to show they welcome anyone to sit with them.

This year, Tip Top The One and YOU CAN SIT WITH ME have teamed up to drive social inclusion in primary schools.

The partnership will see Tip Top The One – a staple of Aussie lunchtimes for generations – support YOU CAN SIT WITH ME in its ongoing work to empower and educate Aussie schoolkids, their parents and wider school communities on how to form stronger peer-to-peer social bonds.

Tip Top Marketing & Innovation Director Brett Grebert said providing young Australians with anti-bullying education had the ability to change lives.

“Tip Top sandwiches have been a staple of school lunches for generations and sitting down together over lunch provides an important opportunity for students to connect and make friends,” Mr Grebert added.

“We’re proud to be partnering with YOU CAN SIT WITH ME to support the important work they’re doing to foster more connected, kind and inclusive playgrounds across the country.”

Schools, sporting clubs and community organisations can sign up for YOU CAN SIT WITH ME at https://youcansitwithme.org.

“YOU CAN SIT WITH ME’ really made me realise l was important and that kindness is my passion,” Nellie said.

“I have found a new bunch of friends at high school, who are absolutely amazing and love who l am!”

Kirrilea said to stop bullying from becoming a major problem it’s important to communicate to your child about what is going on at school and to educate them on bullying from a young age.

“Communication between your child, the teacher and the principal is key. Students like Nellie who is kind, caring and generous also need to understand this behaviour towards them, that they did not cause it, and to teach them to know their worth,” Kirrilea said.

“Talk to your children about walking away from certain situations, and to always tell someone how they are feeling. It’s important to teach children the tools to look after their own well-being.”

For Nellie, it was hard to tell her parents about how the bullying made her feel but after she did, she said she felt much better.

“Reaching out to others about bullying helped me feel safe,” Nellie said.

“It also helped me to know that I shouldn’t let others pull me down for their own benefit of making themselves feel like they’re better than me.”

Nellie would like to provide the following advice to her fellow students who also might be getting bullied: “Don’t be afraid to tell a trusted adult about what’s been going on. Don’t let them get into your head and change who you are.

“Be comfortable in your own self and learn to love yourself just the way you are!”

Ryan Fritz

Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities and currently works at Redkite, a childhood cancer charity.

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Ryan Fritz

Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities with another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years of experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities.

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