Bridie Carter of McLeod’s Daughters fame is the keynote speaker at the Freedom from Bullying Expo in Lismore, which she believes is setting a national benchmark by taking a whole-of-community approach to the issue.
Bridie said she is keenly aware that incidents of bullying have led to some nasty outcomes, including contributing to a teen suicide in Lismore in 2008, and said openly discussing bullying in schools and workplaces, and looking at ways to address it, was a positive way forward.
Bridie said she gets approached to be associated with lots of things but can’t always find the time. However, the Freedom from Bullying Expo was something she felt passionate about.
“I always have to have a personal or philosophical connection, I have to identify with it in a strong enough way to take part, and I had one specific memory of bullying when I was at school that came to the forefront of my mind straight away when I was asked to do this,” Bridie said. “My eldest son started school this year and so that refreshed my memory and experience once again. As an actress, my job is telling stories and connecting people to one another, connecting human beings… I’m not an expert in the sense I’m not a psychologist, so I will be speaking about my own experience.”
The Freedom from Bullying Expo is on tomorrow (Friday, November 12) and is being presented by the Northern Rivers Anti-Bullying Alliance, which is an advocacy group for targets of bullying and is working to develop programs that promote change. One such program run by Interrelate is a school program for Year 5 and Year 6 students where they learn about empathy and how to be a good friend in an attempt to curb cyber bullying.
Bridie, who lives in the Northern Rivers, said while she doesn’t use social networking sites herself – “I don’t know how anyone has the time” – she’s aware it’s becoming the chosen form of communication amongst the younger generation and believes it’s important children know where the boundaries are.
“(That kind of program) is vitally important,” she said. “I’ve already made a decision with my son that he won’t be in his room on Facebook, he will be in the middle of the loungeroom where I can watch and it can be governed in a really loving way. The thing that frightens me with children and adults on social networking sites is I feel in some ways we’re losing our means of communication – forgetting how to look people in the eye and have a real conversation. It’s easy to tap on a keyboard and say nasty things, but it’s far harder face to face when you’re seeing that person’s reactions.”
Bridie said she believes events like the Freedom from Bullying Expo puts the issue firmly in the community’s hands and makes it everyone’s responsibility.
“There’s that saying ‘it’s not just a parent or parents that bring up a child, it’s a village that brings up a child’. We have a duty of care to one another, whether we know each other or not, to be talking and keeping communities transparent. The thing I say to my son is if something’s unacceptable to you, no matter what arena it’s in, then speak up. You must voice it, it’s your right,” Bridie said. “Bullying is a huge topic, a human topic, and I care deeply about it because I feel we live in a world where a lot of the time we don’t embrace difference and we can be fearful of it. But for me it’s about embracing difference and change and each other. Everyone in this area should be very proud this Expo is happening here. Let’s get it out in the open and talk about it.
“In a movie I once played a character obsessed with the philosopher Noam Chomsky and he said change starts in the living room. You don’t have to have placards outside parliament house, it can start in the loungeroom and go to the kitchen and then the street and the school and the workplace. This expo is not about pointing the finger and looking at what’s wrong, but looking for the answers and how we can move forward in a really positive way.”
The Freedom from Bullying Expo is on at the Lismore Workers Club tomorrow, Friday November 12 and runs from 10am to 3pm, with lots of guest speakers, information and workshops, and plenty of time for the community to raise their concerns with a panel of experts. For more information, phone Linda on 0438 478 807 or email email@example.com.