The Violence Free Waipā team took to Cambridge’s streets last Friday to mark Pink Shirt Day, an annual event held to quell rising levels of bullying.
New Zealand has supported Pink Shirt Day since 2009, following the international movement that began in Canada in 2007 when two students took a stand against bullying after a peer was harassed for wearing pink.
Violence Free Waipā co-ordinator Ruth Nicholls said that in July 2021 a Cambridge teenager was rushed to hospital in a serious condition after a school fight that stemmed from bullying.
“The student was attacked by several boys in the stairwell of one of our local schools,” she said. “The student then spent several nights in hospital after being knocked unconscious in the fight, which was investigated by police.”
Ruth said teachers she had spoken to throughout Waipā have noticed a sharp rise in bullying since students returned to school.
“They think that this is a result of cyber bullying while the students were studying from home in isolation.”
She said the online resource for families, Kidspot NZ, said 94 percent of New Zealand teachers said bullying occurs at their school, with 46 percent believing cyber bullying occurs mainly between the ages of 11 to 14. The site also claimed that around 45 percent of teachers and staff said verbal and social bullying was brought to their attention once a week, while 25 percent heard of physical bullying once a week.
The youth health services organisation Youthline reported that bullying often comes up in calls from young people, Ruth added, either as victims or as people who are concerned about someone else who has been bullied.
Part of the annual anti-bullying Pink Shirt Day initiative is to wear pink or to dress workplace frontages in pink. Ruth said she was overwhelmed at the number of shops in Cambridge supporting the initiative, either with staff dressing in pink or by decorating their window fronts, this year.
“The best effort prize is going to Spark who went above and beyond with everyone dressed in pink, the shop and window decorated in pink, and even a note with a chocolate bar with information on how to spread kindness,” she said.
A sausage sizzle also took place in front of Cambridge Community House (CCH), aimed at raising awareness around the effects of bullying.
“Our whare strongly supports the key message from Pink Shirt Day – that by celebrating diversity, promoting inclusiveness and showing aroha we can collectively work to stop bullying,” CCH manager Gabby Byrne said.
“We want Cambridge to be a place where all whanau can feel respected, safe and valued. Pink Shirt Day allows us to speak up and be part of this impactful movement.”