Wednesday, 18 January 2017


 'There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, and that their lives are free from fear and want.' ~ Kofi Annan

The word 'bullying' is used a lot these days, so it's important to begin by defining the term.
The national definition of bullying for Australian schools states that: '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 (overt) or hidden (covert).'
Have you ever felt bullied?

Bullying is nothing new - it has certainly been going on for as long as I can remember.

My first experience of this type of behaviour was back in the ‘olden days’ when, as a 10 year old, I became what is known as an ‘immigrant’.

My family (Mum, Dad, three sisters, brother, and I) had farewelled all of our family, friends and neighbours in Ireland and England, and set sail for our new life in Australia, where Dad was to take up a teaching post as Head of English Department in a country high school.

Migrants were still rather a novelty in country NSW in those days, and certain students in my new school saw my minority status as an open invitation to tease, ridicule, and humiliate 'the new kid on the block’.

They repeatedly mimicked my accent, made fun of my English clothing and whatever Mum had put in my lunchbox for the day, and excluded me from their games. I began to hate going to school.

It was a very lonely, distressing, and unhappy time (until they got to know me and we became friends) and to this day, I still cringe, whenever I recall the time that the nun on duty at playtime, rang the bell to command the other children to include me in their games!

Bullying, then, is nothing new, however, what is new is the frequency with which we are hearing about this behaviour, and the alarming rate at which it appears to be escalating, in our schools and wider society.

Bullying occurs in many different forms - from verbal, emotional, and racist bullying, to psychological, physical, and the now, all-too-prevalent, modern day phenomenon, cyber bullying – but one thing is for certain, whatever form it takes, it is never OK!
Mahatma Gandhi once stated that ‘If we want to create lasting peace, we must begin with the children.’
There is great wisdom in this, and education is key.

Parents, schools and wider communities have major roles to play in helping to achieve this. We do it by:
  • Creating and promoting peaceful, safe, and secure environments for children
  • Modelling positive behaviours built on mutual respect, trust, and empathy
  • Setting very clear behaviour expectations and guidelines
  • Helping children to understand and take responsibility for their own behaviour and consequences of their own actions
  • Providing children with coping strategies for dealing with distressing behaviours, if and when they arise.
Looking back with adult eyes, I’m sure the behaviour of that handful of students from my school stemmed more from fear of difference and a lack of understanding than from any conscious malice on their part.

This belief prompted me to tackle the issue of school bullying head-on, in a way that would make it easy for children to understand ~ the non-threatening, effective medium of song.

Drawing on my childhood and teaching experiences, I set about writing lyrics to address various types of unacceptable behaviours, including the ever-increasing cyber bullying - with an emphasis on the right of every child to feel safe and protected.

My colleague, Kathryn Radloff, worked her usual magic with the music, and the result is 'Bully-Free Zone!' a child-friendly, whole school, positive behaviours approach to dealing with this serious issue.

We are very grateful for the support of a wonderful local primary school principal, Mrs Terri Paterson who, together with the parent body, graciously allowed us to work with and record some of their children on the song’s chorus, and to record a student assembly performance video of 'Bully-Free Zone!' with an introduction by older students - children teaching children!

Sample Lyrics:

Attention, please!
May I have your attention, please!
This is a bully-free zone!
I repeat, a bully-free zone!
No bullying will be tolerated in this school,
It's a bully-free zone!

Verse 2
Everyone is valued here and all must be protected.
Negative behaviour at all times will be rejected!
Trying to annoy someone does not build good relations,
It's a form of what is known as private space invasion.

Bullying is not OK - no way! It's never a solution;
Deal with problems as they rise, with conflict resolution.
Caring isn't optional, it's what we all expect;
Everyone is welcome here, but bullying, we reject!
©Lyrics, Nuala O’Hanlon / Music, Kathryn Radloff
Keystone Creations ~ Educational Songs
'A Lesson in Every Lyric'®

We are very proud of the students, who took ownership of the message, some even going as far as writing to a local newspaper to tell of their experience, and to urge other schools to become bully-free zones:

Until next time!

          Yours in Singing to Learn,
  • Nuala 
**FYI: Our curriculum-aligned teaching teaching resources are available as: 
  • 'A Lesson in Every Lyric'®


‘Bullying is a problem borne of dysfunction whereby the perpetrator and the victim are caught in a negative cycle of fear and control. We, as caretakers and educators have a duty to interrupt this cycle and facilitate change through early education and intervention. This song, 'BULLY-FREE ZONE!' addresses the issues in a positive, child-friendly way. It not only provides strategies to help empower the victim, but also raises awareness and accountability in the perpetrator.’ ~ Eileen Condell, Psychotherapist

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