Queensland Education Department comments on ABC’s controversial Bullied program

Ian Thorpe’s documentary Bullied premiered last night on ABC TV to plenty of debate.

In the series, Thorpe and his producers give high school students hidden cameras to capture footage of bullying inside their schools. After the students gathered a certain amount of footage, Thorpe then approached the Queensland Department of Education to advise that they’d shot the footage and requesting the Department’s participation in the program.


Daily Review asked the Department whether it approved of the producers gathering hidden camera footage without their consent or knowledge. A spokesperson provided the following statement:


The Department is committed to making state schools safe and supportive places to learn.

Bullying is not tolerated in any Queensland state school.

Although the Department objects to the way source footage was obtained for this program, it is important to acknowledge the vital role that state schools play in combatting the community-wide issue of bullying in all its forms.

In that respect, the Department was prepared to participate in the program to reinforce its position and raise awareness of the extensive work schools are undertaking in this area.

With the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence taking place this Friday, it was timely for the Department to share the message that bullying and violence are never ok.

In 2017, Queensland is leading this important day on behalf of all Australian states and territories, with approximately 2000 schools participating.

Featured image: specialist child psychologist Marilyn Campbell and Ian Thorpe

14 responses to “Queensland Education Department comments on ABC’s controversial Bullied program

  1. Though this was a commendable attempt and though there is a serious need to manage bullying I think the programme had some very serious flaws. Daring to confront the flaws will not be popular. The fact that there is such a hunger for solutions and so many difficulties dealing with the matter it is not surprising that many viewers appreciated the programme. However though Ian Thorpe is a decent man and a concerned citizen he is not trained in the management of dysfunctional group behaviour. Individual victims and their families were highlighted in an unnecessary and sensational way. If you follow up the Dutch owners of the franchise of the film, Skyhigh TV, you will find they are in the entertainment business and quite superficial at that. Bullying is a systemic problem, it is complex and has many stakeholders including bullies, the ones in the group glad they can escape bullying while others are being picked on, there are teachers, education departments, parents some of who are bullies, politicians and public figure who attack and insult the person, police and the media (who love stories of violence to individuals), much of male sport highlights bullying. I would argue that the programme failed both of the victims involved and absolved the school authorities and the police.
    The major difficulty is that the producers felt they had to reinvent the wheel. There is much good research and writing about bullying which is a worldwide problem. If the programme raises awareness that is good However where have those who were shocked been? What kind of a world of denial do they live in? But if we are serious about bullying in our communities should we not find and use the best remedies possible?

  2. This is disgusting that these bullies are allowed to get away with what they do. It is a criminal offence and the teachers, the principal in particular are liable. The principal, teachers and parents (not just mothers) and the Queensland Dept of Education are pathetic criminals and should be brought to justice for their negligence.

  3. The schools are hopeless. They cover the bullies and so did the ABC. Why not photograph the bullies and their mothers. The poor little disable girl on the show tonight got no support either. What kind of mothers do not bring up their children to respect and help a disabled child. What kind of areas are these schools in. The girls were not even wearing school frocks all in shorts. The bullies should be put in reform school. Marilyn Campbell was not even upset at what the child went through. Toss the bullies to the bikies as well as their parents.
    The group session was garbage just putting on a front as no one cared before.

  4. Really? A school principal who refuses to meet with a parent about a problem the child is having at school? How can that be? I hope Kelsey is doing OK.

  5. I am an older viewer (70 last birthday) and like pretty well everyone who watched it applaud Ian Thorpe and his production team for this outstanding show. May it continue to have an impact long after it departs.
    I fully agree with others about the inadequate response of officialdom, from both the school and the Queensland Education Department, but I’m not sure we can pin this entirely on them. There’s been a huge cultural shift since I was at school, when teachers, especially principals, had absolute authority and caning was routine for bad behaviour.
    Of course bullying happened in my time because it’s fundamental to human socialisation,one of the ways kids sort themselves out. Not a very nice way, but we can only learn about being nice if we know what being nasty is, one of the lessons of bullying. Like most other victims (and who isn’t?) I came away from school toughened by the experience, rather than damaged by it.
    Caning could of course be brutal and often was, but in my experience the worst part of child abuse by authorities isn’t physical but mental, just like the worst part of bullying isn’t the punches and kicks and hair-pulling but the sheer, constant stress and fear. I was lucky; I did get caned for transgression (not for bullying), but I never felt persecuted by the teacher administering the cane. It was just what happened when you were naughty.
    So I feel for school authorities expected to sort out bullying without the simple tool of physical punishment. Unlike detention or suspension, it had the virtue of being clear cut, done and dusted. It hurt, but you knew you’d stepped over a line and you got over it. I don’t advocate the return of the cane because it had its dark side, and agree there should be ways to sort out bullies without it. But whatever remedy we find, that should be a primary aim of the treatment.

  6. ‘Bullying’ was one of the best TV programs I have ever seen and I have been watching them since TV started in 1956. It was sensitive, underscored and above all, while it showed up the bullies in all their worst teenage cruelty, it did not pass judgment but instead gave the kids to understand what they had been doing and their remorse amounted to a cure.

  7. When I read about how the bullying would be filmed, I like many others, wondered about the ethics of hidden cameras even thought they would be filming the lack of ethics of the students. In fact, no-one’s face was shown and for the most part, the words spoken by the bullies were so blurred as to require subtitles. So no-one was recognisable.
    The Department’s assertions about its values and vigilance are hollow. For goodness sake, we just saw the film! We saw that this child had been bullied for years, that his father was refused any meeting with the principal, that (one would guess) the Department collaborated with the project only when it had calculated that it would look even worse if it didn’t. A teacher approached to take action said s/he didn’t know what to do; if that is true, is it because of a personal failing or lack of training and support by the Department? Students in the discussion group said that they had attempted to support Kelsey but that nothing ever changed, the routine offenders just continued as usual. The officialdom here looks pathetic.

    1. I agree, letts. And this is where my criticism of the episode lies: The show didn’t hold this pathetic-looking officialdom to account. The producers left it to the school mates to support Kelsey, possibly because the school didn’t really want to get involved, but that should really have been only one half of the story.
      The school made the meeting on bullying voluntary – why not compulsory for Kelsey’s whole year? I assume that most of the students attending the session have been bullied themselves or that they have an understanding of it being a really shitty behaviour. Of course bullies wouldn’t voluntarily attend a session about bullying, and why would they? They haven’t got a problem with it. A couple of teachers wouldn’t have gone amiss, either, but perhaps they, too, didn’t seem to have a problem with bullying. I don’t blame the producers of the show for this, I blame the school.
      This session was undoubtedly extremely good both for Kelsey and the other participants, and I found the end of it heart-warming, but it left the onus of not being bullied with Kelsey and his mates. It should have been squarely put at the feet of the principal and the teachers, and they should have been made to come up with some real policies against bullying at their particular school instead of the tired lip-service of “The Department is committed to making state schools safe and supportive places to learn. Bullying is not tolerated in any Queensland state school.” As we saw last night, it’s tolerated alright.

  8. I was moved to tears last night. Despite the intrusion of hidden cameras in Kelsey’s backpack filming fellow students in a way that would enrage many bureaucracies. Kelsey’s face and complete turnaround in his verbal engagement told the whole story. Thorpie may be about to embark on a new career – good luck with the rest of the series. But there was one thing that troubled me and has not been commented on – the concluding frame that suggested that Kelsey had yet to return to school in 2017. Is that true? What does that mean?

  9. Excellent and insightful to all who participated in the ptogram. That is Ian as the interviewer and facilitator, Kelsey and his Dad who are so brace and the fellow classmates who turned up to them video viewing and were challenged but responded as grown ups!

  10. Congratulations to the ABC and Ian Thorpe for this great initiative. It seemingly has already made a vast difference to Kelsy’s life. Here’s hoping it results in more systemic change to tackle bullying, both in Queensland and in other schools.

  11. Ian Thorpe, Kelsy and his Dad, the ABC, the Qld Ed Department, the principal and the students, are all to be applauded. If this is what it takes to tackle and eliminate bullying in schools, you’ve got my total support.

  12. I watched this last night and was incredibly impressed at Ian Thorpe and how he went about talking and negotiating This young man has done a fabulous job of this first of the series and I look forward to watching the series .
    I had preconceived ideas about Thorpe that unfortunately I had developed by listening to the biased media.
    I would like to make it clear that this program brought out and portrayed someone who was totally opposite to how the picture had been painted him
    Well done Ian , good job

  13. I am a teacher – absolutely applaud the Thorpe documentary – hidden cameras and all. Teachers look at all their students and see very little – rarely picking up on the fact that the chiacking going on is any more than just that. This documentary/undercover investigation was exactly what was needed to expose that dreadful torment – it saved the lad Kelsey from doing what sometimes happens – taking his own life – or indeed what happens in the US – the mass murders within schools as payback! And I was as happy when I saw that all those class-mates were given the chance of some kind of redemption! Bravo on all scores!


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