"I had to do it to survive." Former school bullies explain why they bullied.

It’s a statistic that’s sure to concern any parent.

In Australia, one in four children have experienced bullying.

That’s the equivalent of an entire classroom of bullied students per school.

On tonight’s episode of SBS Insight, a number of Australian students sat down to discuss how some schools are attempting to reduce bulling in the classroom and the playground.

Australian student Emily explains why she was a bully on SBS Insight. Post continues below…

But it wasn’t just victims of bullying who contributed to the conversation.

The news program also spoke to the bullies themselves.

One student from Nepean High School, Emily, described how she became a bully as a matter of survival at her school.

“At my old school, there was a culture of bullying and putting people down and roasting people,” Emily explained.

“I don’t like putting others down but I felt like if I didn’t join in and I didn’t conform, then I would be next,” she continued.

“I felt like I had to become this other person in order to protect myself and I feel as though I was a bully to those around me. I hated myself so much for what I was doing but I really did think that it was what I had to do to survive.”

bullying SBS insight
"I hated myself so much for what I was doing." Image: SBS.

Emily began bullying others while struggling with low self-esteem and body image problems.

"I was acting the way I did because I thought so lowly of myself that I really felt like I had no power and I had to do anything to protect myself when in the end, protecting myself actually made me hate myself and made my life a lot harder," Emily said.

Another girl, Melay, who attends Sydney's Cabramatta High, described how she would target boys at her school in Year 7 and 8.

"I'd mock them. Their body image. The way they expressed themselves as a human being. I would put them down," she said.

But when Melay's 13-year-old cousin took their own life as a result of bullying, her mindset changed completely.

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"Bullying doesn't lead you anywhere." Image: SBS.

"[Bullying] doesn't lead you anywhere. I just want to let everyone know that please stop bullying," she said.

"It can lead someone to take their life. And I don't want anyone feeling the same way that me and my family did."

A number of victims of school bullying also shared their stories on the program.

One girl, who moved to Australia as a refugee from Australia, described being called a "whore" and "ugly" after moving to a new school.

"It wasn't easy," she admitted.

"I just started doubting myself, I guess. I was like, 'Am I not enough?' At one point, it got physical. Because this person, he was like, 'Go back to your country.' I couldn't take it anymore so I pushed him."

We speak to expert Katrina Kavanagh about the key to stopping bullying in our schools on our parenting podcast This Glorious Mess. Post continues below...

Another girl described being ganged up on by an entire class when she was in Year 7.

"They were a bit mean to me. They all ganged up on me. Made rumours. All that kind of thing. And I just felt very isolated from everybody else," she said.

"Stupidly enough, I didn't tell anyone. I kind of kept it to myself."

Tonight’s episode of Insight at 8.30pm on SBS explores how to stop bullying in schools. 

Read more on this topic:

"I lived in torture." One woman's story of the lasting effects of high school bullying.

"This is a real incident that happened to a child I know. This is bullying in 2018."

If you, or a young person you know, is struggling with symptoms of mental illness please contact your local headspace centre here or chat to them online, here. If you are over the age of 25 and suffering from symptoms of mental illness please contact your local GP for a Mental Health Assessment Plan or call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.