This fact sheet is about bullying at school. For information about bullying at work, see our factsheet on ‘Bullying at Work’. This information sheet details laws in Victoria as at December 2012.
Disclaimer: The material in this fact sheet is intended as a general guide only. You should not act on the basis of this information in this fact sheet without first getting legal advice about your own particular situation.
What is Bullying?
Bullying is when someone does something like:
- tease or humiliate you
- spread nasty rumours about you
- unfairly exclude you
- make you do something you don’t want to do
- yell at you or swear at you
- follow you around or harass you
- damage, hide or steal your things
- threaten you or make you feel scared
- hit, push or be violent towards you
- kiss or touch you when you don’t want them to
Speak to someone
Being bullied can make you feel miserable and lead to mental health issues like stress and anxiety. Get support as soon as possible. Talk to someone you trust like a family member, friend or a counsellor. You can get 24-hour free and confidential counselling and support by calling:
Kids Helpline (for young people age 5-25)
Phone: 1800 551 800
Phone: 13 11 14
Bullying At School
School bullying can happen in the classroom, around the school grounds or even outside the school or out of school hours. It can include being bullied over the internet or mobile phones by other people who go to your school.
Lots of information about bullying at schools can be found at the ‘Bullying. No Way!’ website at www.bullyingnoway.gov.au.
What can I do?
You have a right to feel safe at school and your school should have a policy against bullying. You or your parent or guardian can make a complaint to your teacher or your school principal if someone is bullying you.
What if my school doesn’t do enough to stop the bullying?
If you are from a government school and you are unhappy with how the school responds, you can take your complaint to your regional office of the Department of Education. For more information, go to www.education.vic.gov.au.
If you are not happy with how the Department handles your complaint, you can then take your complaint to the Victorian Ombudsman. For more information, go to www.ombudsman.vic.gov.au.
What if I go to a private school?
If you are from a private school and you disagree with how your school deals with your bullying complaint, you should contact the Victorian Registration and Qualification Authority (VRQA – www.vrqa.vic.gov.au) by phoning (03) 9637 2806.
Can I sue if I have been bullied at school?
If school bullying leads to serious physical or psychological harm, you should speak to a personal injury lawyer about whether you should sue. Strict time limits apply. For a referral to a personal injury lawyer, contact the Law Institute of Victoria on (03) 9607 9550 or go to www.liv.asn.au.
School Bullying Online
School bullying can include cyber-bullying. Cyber bullying is when a person uses mobile phones, Facebook or other internet sites to bully you. For example, cyber-bullying can include things like sending you abusive texts or emails, posting or sharing nasty comments or pictures about you, hacking into your account or opening a fake account in your name. Cyber bullying is different from face-to-face bullying because you might not always know the person who is bullying you online.
What can I do about Cyber-Bullying?
- don’t retaliate or respond
- block the person
- change your privacy settings
- report it by clicking the ‘report abuse’ button or by contacting the website host
- report the bully to your school or to their school if they are in different school to you
For more information about cyber bullying and how to stay safe online, see our fact-sheet on ‘Sexting and Cyber-Bullying’ or go to www.cybersmart.gov.au.
Getting an Intervention Order
If someone bullies you and you feel unsafe, you can apply for an intervention order in the Magistrates Court or the Children’s Court if the person bullying you is under 18. If you want to take this option, you should speak to a lawyer first (see below).
Is an intervention order the best option?
If you feel safe talking to the bully if someone else is in the room, you can try mediation instead of applying for an intervention order. Mediation is usually less stressful but it is voluntary, so both you and the person bullying have to agree to try mediation.
To find out more, contact the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria on 1800 658 528 or go to www.disputes.vic.gov.au.
Going to the Police
Some forms of bullying involve criminal offences, including:
- repeatedly bullying someone if it is likely to cause that person physical or mental harm, including self-harm
- assault or sexual assault
- threats to kill or harm someone
- property damage or theft
- texting, e-mailing or posting sexual images of people who are or look like they are under 18
You can contact police if bullying involves a criminal offence. Police can then investigate and may charge the person responsible in court.
Getting Legal Help
If you are under 25, you can get free and confidential legal advice.
Phone: (03) 9611 2412 (9am-5pm, Mon-Fri)
Victoria Legal Aid – Legal Help
For legal information, referrals or appointments.
Phone: (03) 9269 0120 or 1800 677 402 (country)