From outside the Totally Dance Studios hall, the strains of a desperately sad song and the odd thump on a wooden floor can be heard.
This is work in progress on a project a group of young Gunnedah dancers hope might help change a life.
It’s a show called Be the Change. Its story takes bits from the dancers’ lives - things they have learnt about bullying from what they have seen and heard and experienced themselves.
“If this only helps one person, then that’s our job done,” student Amara Grant says.
“It’s very relatable in everybody’s lives,” her sister Lauren says. “Some of us don’t get bullied, but we know of people who do get bullied.”
Bullying in schools and beyond has become a key issue nationwide. This Friday, March 16, is the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence, drawing attention to an issue that strikes fear into parents’ hearts.
Once you have dropped them off at school, how can you know what is happening? At home, there is the fear of cyber-bullying. Social media has become a way to strike out - through Snapchat rooms, instagram remarks and mortifying pictures.
A national study in 2009 found one in four Year 4 to Year 9 Australian students (27 per cent) reported being bullied every few weeks or more often. Frequent school bullying was highest among Year 5 (32 per cent) and Year 8 (29 per cent) students.
The suicide of 14-year-old Dolly Everett in January this year has thrown the spotlight on bullying and cyber-bullying - and prompted social media campaigns for zero tolerance.
Totally Dance Studios’ director Angela Denman says while the studio produced an anti-bullying performance a few years ago, parents and students have continued to request another one.
“There is such an emphasis on bullying at the moment in the media that it is just the right time,” she says.
The show has the support of the Two Rivers Arts Council and The Dance Collective.
“The show is looking at different types of bullying - including cyber-bullying - and the different outcome if a child has support. We are trying to show the flipside. We want to make a difference. We all need to try to be part of the solution. It is all based on kindness and respect.”
Be the Change has come from stories of the studios’ students. Many are choreographing dances and choosing songs that resonate with their own ideas of bullying.
“They know exactly what they want to say,” Ms Denman says. “That is the thing that both surprises me and pleases me the most.”
As well as a performance at the Civic Theatre on April 6, the show will be seen by school students from around Gunnedah.
“It’s not okay to bully,” Charlotte Bedggood says. “Don’t take time out of your day to ruin someone else’s day.”
Most importantly, the students said, make sure you talk to someone you trust if you are being bullied.
Tickets for Be the Change at 7pm on April 6 at the Civic Theatre are $25 and are available from Evolution Therapies. To listen to what the students had to say, visit www.nvi.com.au
What is bullying?
Bullying is an ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that causes physical and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power over one or more persons.
Bullying can happen in person or online, and it can be obvious or hidden.
Bullying of any form or for any reason can have long-term effects on those involved...
Single incidents and conflict or fights between equals, whether in person or online, are not defined as bullying.
- From bullyingnoway.gov.au
Who can I contact?
If you have specific concerns about your child at school, you should contact the class teacher, then the principal of your school.
If you want to speak to someone else about your child, contact Parentline NSW – www.parentline.org.au, 1300 1300 52 (cost of a local call), 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
More information about bullying, education resources and the eighth National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence is available from the national Bullying. No Way! website www.bullyingnoway.gov.au
The website also lists schools that are registered with the National Day of Action.