National Day of Action Against Bullying, Speech, March 20, 2015

Friday 20 March, is National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence. I will be attending the launch of the booklet A safer nation for every generation, along with the CEO of the Bully Zero Australia Foundation, Oscar Yildiz; the Victorian Minister for Police and Minister for Corrections, Wade Noonan; and representatives of Corrections Victoria and the Jesuit Community College. This very important event is part of an ongoing program that addresses the issue of cybersafety. It addresses the growing need to do all we can to protect our communities, our families and our children from the often tragic consequences of cyberbullying. Too often, online harassment has had devastating consequences. For this reason, I would like to take the opportunity to highlight the good work of the Bully Zero Australia Foundation

The idea for the Bully Zero Australia Foundation began in 2012. An independent local task force was established to address the scourge of cyberbullying. This task force was the initial step in setting up the nationwide Bully Free Australia Foundation, as it was originally called; an idea that was conceived and founded by Moreland councillor, Oscar Yildiz, and launched by the then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. The aim of the foundation was and still is to run education programs, support victims and lobby for safer social media. The task force included amongst others the then Race Discrimination Commissioner, Helen Szoke; psychologist, Michael Carr-Gregg; and several local Labor and Liberal MPs. The families of Brodie Panlock, Sheniz Erkan and Allem Halkic, who sadly all committed suicide after being bullied, were also part of the foundation. The case of Allem Halkic was the first successful death-related-to-bullying application to come before the Victims Of Crime Assistance Tribunal.

I want to commend CEO, Oscar Yildiz, for his terrific work. On 15 December 2014, the foundation launched a 24/7 national hotline. It is the only hotline in Australia dedicated to helping victims of bullying and their families. Since the launch of the hotline, it has answered some 3,000 phone calls. The foundation delivers hundreds of free workshops to schools, students, parents, teachers, sporting clubs, and community groups, and it operates on a shoestring budget. It attends a minimum of four schools a week. Oscar Yildiz and his foundation are to be commended. In relation to the appointment of a Children's e-Safety Commissioner proposed by recent federal legislation, Oscar says: 'It is fantastic to see the prospective commissioner will have the power to issue notices to end-users who post inappropriate material or engage in cyberbullying. Removal of such material by the commissioner further enhances policing and enforcement.'