50,000 sign petition to fight bullying

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NEARLY a year after her teenage sister’s tragic death, Cassie Whitehill’s resolve to fight bullying is stronger than ever.

The Huonville 31-year-old, right, is preparing to present a petition of almost 50,000 signatures to federal parliament in Canberra calling for the introduction of cyber-bullying laws.

“Almost daily I get a message from someone saying they or their child are being bullied and asking what they can do,’’ Ms Whitehill said.

Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz has agreed to present the petition to Parliament on September 22.

It will call for federal telecommunications laws to be changed to encompass cyber-bullying.

“Cyber-bullying has probably overtaken all other forms of bullying, especially for young people,’’ Senator Abetz said.

“It’s relentless. Even when kids go home from school, they can still be bullied through ­social media.”

Ms Whitehill’s Chloe’s Law campaign was established after her sister Chloe Fergusson took her own life on September 12 last year following years of sustained bullying.

“Almost daily I get a message from someone saying they or their child are being bullied and asking what they can do.’’

Ms Whitehill has since campaigned tirelessly to change social attitudes, raise awareness, educate the public and bring about law reform.

She attended the National Centre Against Bullying 2014 Conference this month and has been speaking in schools.

“It’s about reiterating that bullying has devastating ­effects. Young people don’t think about the impact their bullying behaviour is having,” she said.

“Telling Chloe’s story, I’ve heard people say that they didn’t think bullying caused that much harm, that it’s just a bit of fun.

“Hearing from someone who has lost a loved one through bullying really does hit home.”

The campaign’s Facebook page has 290,000 followers and the movement is set to change its name to Chloe’s Voice, to reflect the campaign is about more than law reform.

“We’re raising awareness through school talks and so on, being the voice of Chloe who’s not here to tell her story.”

The campaign also has sought to change state laws. The only state with specific bullying laws is Victoria.

Late last year an anti-bullying petition with almost 5000 signatures was the largest e-petition to be tabled in Tasmania’s House of Assembly.

Attorney-General Vanessa Goodwin has referred it to the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute for consideration.

“The Government iscommitted to strengthening the legislative provisions that deal with the crime of bullying and cyber-bullying,” she said.

On September 12, Chloe’s Voice will present the second Say No to Bullying Day, encourag­ing Tasmanians to stand up and speak out.

Businesses, schools, sporting groups and individuals will be encouraged to wear blue on the day – Chloe’s favourite colour – and say no to bullying. For 24/7 crisis support, call Kids Helpline 1800 551 800, Lifeline 131 114, SCBS 1300 65946 or headspace.org.au

Originally published as 50,000 join bully fight