Monday February 5 marked nine years since the loss of Allem Halkic, the first person in Australia to be recognised as a victim of crime as a direct result of cyberbullying. This ruling meant his death was not deemed a suicide as bullying was a contributing factor to his death.
“There is an increase in this type of activity where people send via internet, SMS or other means aggressive threats to other people. A message needs to be sent to the community that these sorts of behaviours need to be punished.” Said Melbourne Magistrate Peter Reardon.
Since that time only a handful of prosecutions have taken place compared to thousands of reported cases in relation to bullying and cyberbullying. The recent tragic death of 14 year old Amy ‘Dolly’ Everett the teen from the Northern Territory who took her life after being cyber bullied has firmly put the issue back on the agenda. However, BZAF would ask – who else has to die before harsher penalties and prosecutions are put in place to hold perpetrators accountable?
In an ironic coincidence Allem’s anniversary kicks off a week of discussion around cyberbullying. Tuesday February 6 was Safer Internet Day, a worldwide event with this year’s theme “Create, connect and share respect: A better internet starts with you”. To end the week Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will table cyberbullying for addition on the COAG agenda on Friday 9 February.
“I firmly believe that we are just skimming the ocean of a big issue where bullying and harassment is now following young children in to the family home,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
BZAF applauds both Premier Palaszczuk’s move and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to add the issue to the agenda. However, it would seem that much of what Premier Palaszczuk plans on implementing is already being done. BZAF was launched in 2012 and since that time has specialised in education programs in schools and the workplace. In addition, BZAF is a certified provider of cyber safety programs Nationally and recognised by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner. BZAF has provided support to victims and families for over five years now with limited government funding.
“This is a crime. People are driven to end their lives as a result of the bullying. In many ways, it’s no different to the one punch law” said Michelle Murray COO of Bully Zero Australia Foundation. “If the bully hadn’t said the words, the victim wouldn’t have been driven to end their life. Just like if the person hadn’t delivered the one punch, the victim would still be alive”.
An estimated 2,500 Australians commit suicide each year. Daily, that is 8 successful suicides with an estimated 184 attempts. Bullying is a factor in some of these deaths and many could have been prevented with intervention which begins with education programs delivered by organisations like BZAF.
Allem Halkic, Dolly Everett, Jessica Cleland. These are the names of the victims of cyberbullying. Promising teens with lifes to live that were taken away because of cyberbullying. A week of talking about cyberbullying is a great idea. However, actions speak louder than words and BZAF would call on the government to support organisations already achieving much and requiring just a little bit of support to stop the trail of death cyberbullying leaves in its wake.