Bega District Letters to the Editor, June 26

Community responsibility

The word “Community”, to me, includes all of us who live in the Bega Valley.  It includes all the hard working, caring, and in most instances, inspiring teachers, past and present. It includes all the hard working, keen, clever, humorous, kind, helpful, moody, quiet, noisy, dramatic, sporty, argumentative, lazy and amazing students who attend the school now or those who were students there in the past. 

Bega High is our local government high school. And it is the responsibility of the community to ensure this school is safe, because it takes in all students, no matter their problems, no matter their family situation, no matter their attitude. 

Bullying is cruel and causes pain to bullied children and their family. Bullying does not end at the school fence. All schools have policies in place that endeavour to stamp out bullying, but teenage codes and shame sometimes sends the bullying “underground”. It has been around forever, but that is no reason for ignoring it, or children bring told to “toughen up”. 

One of three solar lights installed at Tathra Wharf by the council at the weekend was quickly stolen. Anyone with info is urged to contact Bega Police or the council.

One of three solar lights installed at Tathra Wharf by the council at the weekend was quickly stolen. Anyone with info is urged to contact Bega Police or the council.

Bega High students, their parents and teachers will need the support of their community – that's all of us. They do not need people mumbling about “the lack of discipline in government schools”, or “teenagers today have no manners” etc. 

In some instances it is the community letting its young people down. It will need the community listening hard to the students, parents and teachers to try to find some solutions. It will need the community to be non-judgmental and helpful while listening. It will need the older community to forget about what happen when they went to school when considering solutions.

But we can all help to let our students know we are proud of them, their teachers and our Bega High School. We know they all try to do their best.  I am sure the community that came together to set up the relief centre for Tathra people when the fires hit can come together to help and support our local high school. 

Our school is a community responsibility.

Valerie Little, Tathra

Moving forward

It was with deep sadness that I read about the violent incident at Bega High on Facebook. Years ago I worked in a youth refuge and experienced equally devastating violence and again in Wilcannia where I was teaching. It gave me an insight into the terrible injustice and harm done to Indigenous people.

Of course I am supportive of the school’s response in wanting to support the victim and seek further measures to prevent this kind of incident. It’s a horrifying thing to happen in our midst, whether we’re directly connected with the school or not.

Can I also draw attention to the need to address the perpetrator? If our reaction is purely punitive it often backfires in the long term. There are many studies now that show a closer look at violence and its origins, with a broader vision will create better communal outcomes. Rehabilitation must be part of the solution, especially for young people with their whole life ahead.

As pointed out in the letter, the school has a zero tolerance policy towards violence, bullying and other anti-social behaviour. 

Looking at this incident holistically, I am suggesting that personal or racist remarks can fall squarely into the “anti-social behaviour” category. These are hurtful and damaging to a young person. Having some knowledge of this situation through close connections, verbal provocations to an already marginalised young person can cause a violent reaction.

Our focus has to be to move both victim and perpetrator forward. Leaving one behind will only bury rather than resolve the issue. If our education system can take this on board we will have moved a little closer to a peaceful community. I remember Margaret Little (head of Preshil in Melbourne) used to say to all new parents, “It’s the aggressive child who needs nurturing.”

Anneke Van Tholen, Bega