The Better Buddies Program

The Better Buddies Program is an initiative of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation.The Foundation was established in 1997 as a result of the Port Arthur tragedy where 33 adults and 2 children, Alannah and Madeline Mikac, lost their lives.

Between January and April 1997, Walter Mikac, Phil West and a small group of volunteers, worked hard to set up the Foundation to coincide with the first anniversary of the tragedy at Port Arthur. They agreed upon the name, the mission statement and organised incorporation, bank accounts, tax exemption and so on. Even the Prime Minister agreed to become the Patron.

On April 30, 1997 two days after the anniversary of Port Arthur, the Prime Minister launched the Foundation.

Prime Minister John Howard and Victorian Premier Steve Bracks are our Patrons.

The Foundation is a national organisation governed by a Board of Directors, with an Advisory Board assisting and advising the Board of Directors on community and business issues. A small team manages the Foundation with offices in Melbourne.

For more information on the Foundation, please click on The Alannah and Madeline Foundation logo.

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Why we need an anti-bullying program?
As part of the Foundation's pledge to "stop the hurt and heal a child", the Foundation administers a schools program, teaching children to care about the children around them. The program, titled The Better Buddies Program, delivers a very positive and effective anti-bullying, anti-violence message, using the Buddy Bear as its mascot.

The program aims to permanently change the culture of bullying which exists in this country by teaching school children that it is 'cool for a big kid to look after a little kid'.

Our hope is for the Better Buddies Program to change the youth culture within the Australian school system and hence lay the foundations for a better and stronger next generation of Australians. The program is simple, readily adaptable, and easy to implement.

It is known that reducing bullying in the community leads to happier kids and faster learning. Conversely, children who suffer bullying are often marginalized in their school community, suffer learning disorders and in extreme cases become suicidal.

The Better Buddies Program has received overwhelming support, having already reached 150,000 students through primary schools in Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT.

Through its partnership with the Australian Institute of Sport, the Foundation uses a number of Australia's sporting heroes to gain instant credibility with the program participants.

With support from the Victorian Government and Vic Health, the Foundation plans to establish the Better Buddies Program more completely in the Victorian schools system in 2002, and roll out nationally in 2003.

"Bullying behaviour in our schools is a long-term mental health issue, if you consider that research shows that up to 30% of depression in young people might be prevented if we could stop bullying."Dr Rob Moodie, CEO of VicHealth Promotion Foundation.

The Better Buddies Program uses a preventative approach to educate young Australians on the inappropriateness of bullying. It addresses the issues of bullying and anti-social behaviour as they relate to young people who are inclined to leave school prematurely as a consequence of peer pressure.

The program will provide resources, none of which are available commercially or from any other not for profit organisation, for in-house policies.

The Better Buddies Program works closely with the philosophies of the Department of Education and Training (DET) and the VicHealth Promotion Foundation with respect to bullying as an anti-social behaviour within the community. Bullying is an issue for our whole society, and schools can work in partnership with their communities to prevent such unacceptable behaviour.

The VicHealth Promotion Foundation recently surveyed 600 Victorians aged between 18 and 65, and found that rural people were most likely to suffer from being bullied. The survey identified that bullying was rife across society, from the more traditionally known settings for bullying (schools and the workplace) to government, media and sporting circles. The research also indicated that there were significant differences between schools with low levels of violent behaviour versus those with high levels.

Two thirds of Victorians believe we have a culture of bullying and 91 per cent of those surveyed had been a victim of one or more bullying behaviours identified in the study: Victorian's Attitudes Towards Bullying.

Recent research from the Centre for Adolescent Health reinforces the health impacts of bullying. In up to 30 per cent of all students with symptoms of depression, the symptoms could be attributed to a history of victimisation (after adjustment to other confounders). Victimisation and bullying behaviour are related to depression, anxiety, loneliness and low self-esteem. The Gatehouse Project survey (1997) showed that students who reported being victimised were three times more likely to report depressive symptoms

Students experiencing stress and anxiety are less likely to excel academically than those reporting high levels of wellbeing. Bullying behaviour such as discrimination, racism, harassment, violence, physical abuse and assault are all unacceptable behaviours within our society.

Prevention is the key to breaking the cycle of bullying behaviour in schools and within society. Schools can effectively prevent and reduce the risk of bullying behaviour. This requires the active participation of principals, teachers, parents, and students. It is possible to prevent and reduce the risk of bullying behaviour in schools by tackling it comprehensively and in an integrated manner through curriculum, playground, school structure and policy and dealing with individual incidents. Building a positive and healthy school environment is at the heart of an effective bullying prevention program.

Having a positive environment that the entire school community has helped to build will help prevent bullying (and other problems). Prevention programs must be complemented with early intervention policies, programs and strategies to deal with the problem.

It has been acknowledged that approaches that focus on the entire school environment are more effective than those specifically targeting an individual or an individual incident. As such, the Better Buddies Program focuses upon positive outcomes rather than consequences that apply to individuals.

The Alannah and Madeline Foundation's long-term objective is to provide resource materials to every government schoolteacher in the state to assist them build student welfare programs and to provide practical steps to combat bullying.

Having a strong support network strengthens individuals and the communities ability to cope with life's events and challenges. Lacking a support network is perhaps a major reason for depression and other stress and anxiety related conditions.

Also see:
The Alannah and Madeline Foundation

❊ Address & Contact ❊

The Better Buddies Program ⊜ 85 Canterbury Road Canterbury | Map
85 Canterbury RoadCanterbury
(03) 9830 2577

❊ Web Links ❊

The Better Buddies Program  

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