It has been five years since Brodie’s Law was introduced making serious bullying a crime punishable by up to ten years in prison; yet sadly today it remains a compelling issue in Victoria.
New statistics show that since June 2011, more than 140 offences have been recorded and 58 offenders have been charged.
As disturbing as this rate of offending is, my concern is that these figures could be only the tip of the iceberg.
The story of Brodie Panlock remains haunting to this day. She was just 19 when she tragically ended her life in September 2006.
Described by family and friends as a determined young woman, buoyant, chirpy and compassionate, she was driven to end her life after enduring ongoing humiliating and intimidating bullying by her co-workers at her workplace in Hawthorn.
It was an appalling tragedy.
Thanks in large measure to the courage and determined campaigning of her parents, some good was borne of it.
Brodie’s Law was a watershed moment that sought to recognise the enormous harm which bullying can inflict, punish those responsible, and send a message that it would no longer be tolerated.
At Victoria Police, I am determined that we build on this important work, holding criminal offenders to account and using intervention orders to protect vulnerable people.
But at a community level I fear there is still some way to go in eliminating this sort of behaviour.
I read with exasperation late last year that a large corporation had allowed a store worker to keep his job whilst serving six months in prison for the serious bullying of a manager.
It was described by the sentencing judge as an extended and systemic campaign of workplace bullying that made his victims lives…“ a living hell.”
What message did that send to the manager, her colleagues or the wider community?
That was just one example. Throughout the community serious physical and psychological bullying is causing real and ongoing harm. It must be stopped.
We all have a responsibility to stamp out bullying and rally round victims wherever we see this occurring – be that in a work place, the school yard or a local sports club.
That extends to cyber bullying too. Social media and digital technology is rapidly changing the way people interact. Bullying whether face to face or over the internet is a crime.
We are the ones who can turn a blind eye; or we can choose to speak up and stand up to the bullies.
No one deserves to be threated, humiliated or abused. As the case of Brodie Panlock clearly demonstrates, employers and those in authority have a duty of care to ensure their workplaces, their schools and their clubs are places where the community can feel safe and well supported.
So what should you do if you are the subject of bullying at work or at school or on the internet?
As the Take a Stand Campaign against Bullying clearly outlines… you should:
- Take action early and take responsibility for your own health and wellbeing.
- Get support from someone you trust; this person may be a supervisor or manager, teacher, GP, parent, health and safety representative or a local police officer.
- Do your research; find out what bullying is and the types of behaviours that are associated with bullying.
- If it is bullying in the workplace, find out what policies your workplace has and what your workplace should be doing to deal with bullying.
- If the bullying is by phone or internet, advise your service provider.
- And report to police all bullying that includes serious threats to your safety or life.
And if you’re a witness to bullying:
- Don’t be a passive bystander – take action without putting your own health and wellbeing at risk.
- Don’t take part in or encourage bullying.
- Support the person who is being bullied to ask for help.
- Report bullying to someone in authority or someone you trust. If others know what is going on, report it as a group.
Let’s hope the 5th anniversary of Victoria’s anti-bullying legislation – or Brodie’s Law – will bring about real change in our community.
Reviewed 22 February 2019