Bullying is the attempt to oppress, torment, domineer or coerce someone else. It can take many forms such as verbal threats, insults and cyberbullying. These behaviours have deeply harmful and sometimes deadly consequences. Sadly bullying is not something that all people grow out of once they reach adulthood, so keeping employees safe from this kind of unkind treatment at work is a current and serious concern.

At just 14 years old, Dolly (Amy Jane Everett) committed suicide as a result of years of bullying. On Nine Network’s ‘A Current Affair’, 1st May 2018, her courageous parents spoke of the circumstances leading to her unfortunate passing and their desire to prevent other children from feeling so alone and hopeless.

They have pioneered the foundation, Dolly’s Dream, to introduce a blue heart rating for each school. This rating would reflect the strength of ‘prevention and response strategies…for bullying and cyber safety’. A nationally consistent approach to bullying which incredibly, does not yet exist.

In Dolly’s case, according to reports, her parents raised issues with her school and on at least one occasion, the blame was placed on their daughter. Dolly’s situation is not uncommon, the mishandling of reports on bullying in schools and workplaces is frequent and potentially very damaging. Bullying is rife and now with access to social media platforms, many children and adults encounter bullies who hide behind technology to inflict pain on others.

Although workplaces have procedures pertaining to bullying and harassment, it still very much occurs. The advancement in social media technology may have left a gap which existing policies have not yet filled. In our work we see some troubling examples of workplace bullying. It is often startling the lengths people will go to in their inappropriate treatment of others. For confidentiality reasons and to protect identities these cannot be shared here.

Over recent years we have seen a growing trend with technology being used as a bullying tactic. Most people don’t realise that when they use technology, this is considered the use of a ‘carriage service’.

Under section 474.15 and 474.14 Criminal Code Act 1995, the use of a carriage service:

  • To ‘make a threat to kill’ with the intent of leading the person to ‘fear the threat will be carried out’ can carry a penalty of ten years.
  • To make a threat to ‘cause serious harm’ can carry a penalty of seven years.
  • to menace, harass or cause offence’ may lead to imprisonment for three years.

In the first two instances, the Act states ‘actual fear not necessary’ for ‘a prosecution for an offence’.

Perhaps because many are unaware of the existence of these penalties, we see all of these behaviours on a regular basis. As Dolly’s tragic story shows, the effects of bullying are very real and can be very serious.

So how would a blue heart system function in workplaces? How would its existence affect an organisation’s willingness to ensure that they are highly engaged in the prevention of bullying and in responding to complaints? How do you currently promote cyber-safety? What would your organisation’s blue heart rating be? Talk to us about strategies to improve your blue heart rating!

www.nine.com.au, Criminal Code Act 1995.

For support:
Lifeline on 13 11 14. Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged 5 to 25).