Bullying and the law

Harassment and bullying are things that a lot of people experience and it’s important to know what your rights are. More importantly – it’s important to know how they can be violated by bullying. This fact sheet tells you who is responsible, and how to get help.

This can help if:

  • You’re being harassed or intimidated
  • You feel unsafe
  • People intentionally make you feel like shit
  • You’ve been threatened
  • You’re excluded or ignored
row of plain pencils against grey background

What are rights?

Human rights are important for everyone, everywhere, every day.  All of our human rights are equally important and should be respected by everyone. 

You have a right to feel safe and to be treated fairly and respectfully, and not to be subjected to harassment.

Bullying and harassment is an abuse of your human rights. It is a serious problem with serious mental and physical impacts. Bullying can affect you at home, school, work, in your social life and in your ability to feel happy, healthy and secure.

It is up to governments, schools, workplaces and individuals (including you) to make sure that every human right is respected. 

Rights that could be violated by bullying

  • Your right to be free from mental, emotional and physical violence.  Bullying is a form of violence. You have a right to be in a supportive environment (be that at school, work or online) that is respectful, safe and free from violence.
  • Your right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
  • Bullying can cause physical injuries, depression and other health issues.
  • Your right to survival and development. Bullying can have serious impact on your physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.
  • Your right to work and have a fair and safe workplace. Bullying at work can lead to physical and mental stress and depression. It can stop you being able to do your job well and cause you to need increased days off work.
  • Your right to leisure and play. Bullying that occurs in places you play and socialise such as at school and on social networking sites and can impact on your ability to relax and enjoy different activities.
  • Your right to education. Bullying at school can make you feel unsafe and unwelcome. It can impact on your concentration and your mental and physical health. This may affect how well you do at school.
  • Your right to participate and have your voice heard. Bullying can make you feel unsafe and prevent you from expressing your feelings and opinions. You have the right to express your views, to have your concerns taken seriously and to participate in decisions that directly affect you. 
  • Your right to privacy. Bullying, in particular cyberbullying can make things that are personal public. You have a right to have your privacy respected by others.

Some people say that bullying is part of the experience of growing up. But bullying is never OK.

Who is responsible?

Individuals: Just as we are all born with human rights we also have responsibilities to respect and protect the rights of others. We all have a responsibility to avoid all forms of bullying, including spreading gossip or making offensive comments about others online. 

Respecting the rights of others applies to everyone, including people who are your friends and those who are not, people who are isolated, new to your school or workplace or may not be very popular. 

If you see someone that has been bullied or treated badly you may be able to take safe and effective action to stop bullying. Bullying is everyone’s problem. Bystanders can be either part of the bullying problem or an important part of the solution to stop bullying.

School and work: Your school has a responsibility to provide a safe learning environment free from violence, harassment and bullying. This protects your right to education. 

Your boss has a responsibility to provide a safe work environment where there is no violence, harassment and bullying. This protects your right to work. 

Government: Your human rights are protected by international human rights laws that the Australian government has agreed to uphold.  

In Australia there are also laws that protect you from some forms of bullying and harassment. Some helpful information on where to go is provided on the workplace bullying fact sheet.

What can I do now?

  • Learn how to stop bullying.
  • Contact someone if you’re concerned.
  • Find out what workplace bullying is.
Last reviewed: 05 November, 2015
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  • cat93    (380 days ago)

    when I was in year 9 I got verbally and physically bullied, I did tell one of my teachers about it but just got told I was the "trouble maker" when I wasn't. I hated going to school I ended up missing a lot of days, eventually I moved but sadly the bully got away with it and now i need Major surgery on my hip!

  • Kaisersoze    (408 days ago)

    Hi, is there any form of help where you are made to feel like shit when you are simply walking in public and the person looks at you in a hateful way. They don't say anything but as an individual you feel it from their facial expressions. This has happened many times in public to me as there I am minding my own business and then catch the eye of someone walking towards me and the person looks at me with disgust like as though I've done something really bad. Its not right as its indirect hate which turns to hurt.

  • jasminebishop    (437 days ago)

    hello, I'm seeking help for my cousin as no one is willing to help her at the moment. 3 years ago, her older sister committed suicide, just before her 15th birthday. ever since then the siblings have been bullied. they school hasn't done nothing about it, making her mum pulling them out of school and putting them in TAFE. however now one of the siblings are finding it hard to be at TAFE because now they are harassing her about it, the lecture has not managed to do anything for her. the next step for now 16 year old is to drop out completely. what are her rights? what can she do about these bullies? and what can she do about the TAFE not doing anything? she lives in a remote area, so she can not move to a new school or TAFE. I have suggested dropping out for the year and going back next year, therefor those students wont be around then, or talking to the TAFE provider about doing correspondence. I believe that this is not good enough though! considering the reason why her sister committed suicide was because of bulling. the system needs to be more strict on underage bulling, its dangerous and hurts lives! its a ripple effect and nothing seems to be changing. please help :)

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