As I put my pink shirt on today, I'm doing it with the knowledge that over the past year, some great things have been achieved in the space of bullying prevention.

Through hard work and perseverance, we have launched the very first Bullying Free NZ week and a much awaited resource for our schools and, more importantly, our children - the new Bullying Free NZ website,

The website is the 2015 Bullying Prevention Guidelines in action. It is a huge step towards arming our schools, parents and caregivers with the advice, support and tools they need to prevent bullying in New Zealand. It also shows the continuing rewards of taking a multi-agency response to bullying. It has resulted in the development of an approach to bullying that is a New Zealand first - it's responsive, informative and joined-up.

Importantly, our schools no longer feel as if they are alone in fighting something that has had a stranglehold on the schoolyard for far too long.


We have indeed made progress, but there is no point in continuing to tinker around the edges. To truly deal with bullying and family and sexual violence, there needs to be a cultural shift.

Worksafe has embarked upon a campaign to change the culture around workplace safety and ensure that everyone who goes to work comes home healthy and safe. It has taken time to get to that point - data has been collected, issues have been identified, legislation has been amended and the ground has been set to make workplace safety an issue for everyone. What is stopping us from ensuring that every day our children also get home safe?

Just over $20 million is spent each year on preventing sexual and family violence. Even less is spent on preventing bullying in our schools. This $20 million pales in comparison to the well over $1 billion we spend on the consequences of family violence. We do not know the dollar cost of bullying in our schools. Parents and students know the human costs all too well.

We now know that over 500,000 New Zealanders are victims of family and sexual violence every year. We do not know the number of students who are bullied or those who are bullies. If 10 per cent of children in our schools are bullied each year 75,000 children are bullied. The truth is we do not know how many are, and we should.

We have the framework and the tools, and now is the time to start walking the talk and truly create an anti-bullying culture.

To ensure we are targeting that funding in the right way, and providing the greatest support we can to bullying prevention in our schools, it is absolutely vital that we have the data that helps schools to understand the scale of the issue and the success of the work that has already been done. Work is underway on that too.

The benefits of creating an anti-bullying culture are more far reaching than just making sure our children are protected. It's about educating our younger generations on what behaviour is right and what behaviour is wrong. Work we do on bullying in our schools will flow on, preventing sexual and family violence. It will increase the wellbeing of students and increase achievement at the same time. It will also reduce self-harm and youth suicide. A culture change around bullying prevention is not a responsibility that lies only with students, teachers and schools - it lies with every single one of us.

David Rutherford is Chief Human Rights Commissioner.
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