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www.mn.catholic.org.au Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
Brett Murray is co-founder and director of Down to Earth Pty Ltd. He has been
dubbed a cultural architect who communicates effectively in order to create a
school or workplace culture that values the individual and encourages team work.
He has a particular affinity with youth and speaks regularly to students, teachers
and parents. Here he explores the all too prevalent notion of bullying.
Bullying is a sizzle word. In marketing,
it is said that it is not the sausage
that sells the sandwich, it's the
sizzle, the smell and the crackling of meat
on a grill.
A sizzle word is one which attracts attention.
'Bullying' is one such word, because it
evokes an emotive response. Bullying has
affected everyone on the planet, we have
each been a bully, been bullied or witnessed
bullying. The media know this and bombard
us, labelling every negative behaviour
As an anti-bullying campaigner I speak to
thousands each year on bullying, what it is
and what it is not, why people bully and how
we can stop it.
The simple statement "I've been bullied"
doesn't seem to convey the feelings
of rejection, loneliness, intimidation,
frustration, shame and even illness that
build up inside you when you have been
bullied. Destructive thoughts whirl around
inside your head - revenge, retribution,
justice, punishment of the bully or bullies.
This is deep stuff.
I've suffered rejection on many levels. It's
beyond hurt, beyond pain. It's a wound
that is inflicted right at the very core of
your being, deep in your soul. It is a wound
that can lie open, bleeding and festering,
affecting everything and everyone around
it, long after physical wounds have healed.
Bullying affects how we see ourselves and
how we view the world around us.
We know that bullying is dangerous, hurtful
and harmful --- or do we?
Why is it that when we discuss the topic
of bullying in classroom forums, amongst
work colleagues, even in open debates on
national television, everybody seems to
gasp in disbelief at the stories of abuse?
Commentators say, "Bullying was around
in my day, but it wasn't as bad" or the
classic, "Bullying is just a part of growing up,
kids simply aren't as tough these days as
Then the spotlight is removed, attention
shifts, the bullies get back to their old
habits and nothing changes. I've seen this
happen so many times.
It is time to stay focused on eradicating
this social ill. A generational problem will
take a long term generational focus to see
a generational solution reached. We need
to stand up and say, "Enough is enough! I
know we can bring about positive change,
so that commentators will say, "Bullying
is not a part of the community where we
live, bullying is not tolerated in our schools,
bullying is something we as a community
frown upon." How cool would that be?
I don't want to hear that bullying is just
"part of growing up", that bullying is
"tolerated". To tolerate something is to 'put
up with' something you dislike or despise.
When you hear that politicians tolerate
different religious or other minority groups,
they're simply saying they are putting up
with something they despise. When I hear
social commentators say we need a more
tolerant society, I say we don't need that
kind of tension, we need a society that
By BRETT MURRAY
takes the time to understand others rather
than just 'putting up with' them. Where
there is only tolerance, there is also tension.
Where there is understanding, there is
But to reach this point of harmony we need
to be educated, to care and to put it all into
context. So let's do that, shall we? I must
do this because I see in my travels as an
anti-bullying campaigner, whilst bullying is
despicable, we cannot label all negative and
anti-social behaviour as bullying.
w Two boys who regularly play together
at school have a disagreement over the
state of play; one boy thinks his friend is
out, the friend disagrees. They argue, they
begin to push and shove each other, fists
begin to fly. One of the boys gets a punch
in the face and a fat lip. This is not bullying.
It is simply a fight, a conflict, a difference
of opinion. It is a reflection of the boys'
childish understanding of problem solving
and working things out, but it's not bullying.
stronger or more arrogant student pushes
in, intimidating the student waiting patiently.
That's an arrogant person being a jerk, but
it's not bullying.
w A person who normally communicates
with another regularly and openly, for some
unknown reason, breaks all communication,
making the other person feel rejected and
isolated. It is someone being insensitive,
perhaps being socially illiterate or selfish,
even stupid if that's how they treat their
friends, but it's not bullying.
Although these stories describe how bullying
plays out in everyday situations, if these are
simply 'one offs', they are not bullying. They
are situations where people are conflicted,
selfish, stupid, immature, inconsiderate.
Let's face it, in this fallen, hurting, broken
world, who hasn't acted in one - or many - of
these ways, at least once?
Norwegian researcher Dan Olweus says
bullying occurs when a person is "exposed,
repeatedly and over time, to negative
actions on the part of one or more
That's right, folks. For actions to be classed
as bullying, they have to be repeated
purposefully over prolonged periods of
time. There may be lapses of negative
action, small spaces between the negative
behaviour, but if it is repeated continually
towards the same person, intentionally
targeting the same individual or group
to make that individual or group feel
uncomfortable, undervalued, rejected,
ostracised, and even dehumanised, then
that is bullying. If it looks like bullying,
sounds like bullying, hurts like bullying, then
we can call it what it is. It is so important
that we understand this in order to tackle
this issue and actually do something
Now that we understand what it is and
what it is not, we can do something about
bullying itself. We can identify who the
bullies are and how they are actually plying
their nasty craft. We can also learn from
history about classic examples of bullies.
We can study those who were victims
of bullying and how they overcame their
situations. These latter lessons are the
most powerful, because those examples
in history of people who were bullied and
actually overcame the bullies are the ones
who have made a significant positive impact.
They are examples worth following.
Brett's book, Make Bullying History, will
be published later this year. To learn more
please visit www.downtoearthonline.com.au
Benjamin Allsop, Year 12,
St Francis Xavier's
Bullying is the act of
attacking people at a basic
level for pleasure and to
promote their own (the
bully's) self confidence and
to break the other person
mentally and/or physically.
Year 11, St Mary's
Bullying is when a
person goes out of
their way to make
another person feel
wor thless and inferior.
Jock Engleman, Year 12,
St Francis Xavier's
Bullying is an act that is
performed to make the
perpetrator feel better
about something that is
lacking in their life and
they think that making
someone feel worse will
make them feel better.
Erin White, Year 11, St Mary's
Bullying is making others feel
down by constantly reminding
them of their insecurities.
What is bullying? Aurora invited students from St Francis Xavier's College Hamilton and St Mary's Campus Maitland to share their thoughts.
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