Lisa Wilkinson is one of the most respected voices in Australian media, the kind who makes you lean in or turn up the volume when when she speaks.
But there was a time in the television hosts’ life when she silenced herself and held herself back, when speaking up or standing out meant risking abuse.
“I didn’t tell my parents. I felt so humiliated and so small as a result of it, that I thought that [it would be best] if I keep it as much as I can to myself. Even though sometimes half the school would be surrounding me because the toughest girl in the school wanted to fight me,” the 58-year-old told her co-hosts.
“It was the most awful, humiliating moment that I’ve ever experienced in my entire life.”
Wilkinson’s comments came during a segment on the Federal Government putting its support behind a ‘National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence’ on March 16.
The annual event, now in its eighth year, is designed to encourage schools to develop ‘workable solutions’ to address violence and bullying, through special lessons, events and activities.
While research struggles to capture the prevalence of bullying, Australia’s Safe and Supportive School Communities Working Group estimates as many as one in four students reports bullying occurring in person and one in five reports online bullying. This can impact a variety of areas of the child’s life, from school engagement, academic achievement and even their physical and mental health.
Wilkinson experienced some of these flow-on effects this first-hand.
“I didn’t want to excel at anything. If I was doing well at something, that meant that I stood out and became more of a target,” she said. “And what it means is that kids want to disappear between the cracks.”
Though Wilkinson had close friends, they were unable to help as they too became targets for supporting her. It wasn’t until the bullies began to leave the school that she found a reprieve.
“As they fell away, I started to find myself again. I made a promise to myself on my very last day of school…that I would never again allow somebody to decide on my behalf who I was and what I was capable of,” Wilkinson said.
“And then eventually you get to be the organiser of the school reunion, and let me tell you, that’s been pretty satisfying.”
If you’re a victim of school bullying, remember help is always available. Visit the Kid’s Helpline website to chat to someone, or call them anytime on 1800 55 1800.