According to research by mental health service ReachOut, at least one in four Australian kids are regularly bullied.
Despite steps taken by schools and parents to combat this issue, bullying is not always provable by its victims. One student who knows this all too well is 14-year-old Kelsey, a Queensland school student who has been a regular victim of bullying.
However, determined to put an end to their son’s torment, Kelsey’s parents approached an ABC production team with a controversial idea.
They proposed that Kelsey, and other bullied students, be equipped with specially designed backpacks fitted with hidden cameras to catch bullies in the act, show the footage to the principal and force the school to take action against the perpetrators.
The production team obliged, and the results were turned into a new two-part documentary, titled Bullied, which will air on ABC tonight at 8:30pm.
The documentary will be presented by swimming champion, Ian Thorpe, who has himself been a victim of bullying.
“This is not about blame. No one will be singled out. It’s about working together to find solutions to help those who are being bullied,” Thorpe told the ABC, adding that the program was conducted under “tight supervision”.
Professor Marilyn Campbell, from Queensland University of Technology's faculty of education, told the ABC that such action could include anything from suspending bullies to a counselling approach to mediation between bullies and victims.
Kelsey’s principal watched the footage taken from her hidden camera and initiated a workshop with the school’s students with the aim of increasing awareness of how serious an issue bullying can be.
And the plan yielded positive results, with a whole-of-school approach adopted. Some students admitted that they weren’t aware how badly bullied some of their peers were.
Both Thorpe and Professor Campbell advocate getting all students involved and changing the culture in the playground to make bullying uncool.
“We know the top-down approach doesn't really work. But what does work is when students come up with solutions for what they think should happen in their schools,” Thorpe told the ABC.
Professor Campbell agreed with the whole-of-school approach, saying that schools that taught kids about not being a silent bystander to bullying could achieve a shift where it wasn't “cool” to take part.
“[That] actually ostracises the kid who is bullying so they change their behaviour, rather than ostracising the kid who is different and being bullied,” Campbell said.
Watch the trailer for the documentary below