ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Joint media release: ACTCOSS and Youth Coalition welcome recognition of school-community partnerships for student safety and wellbeing

20 September 2019

Joint media release, ACTCOSS and the Youth Coalition of the ACT.

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) and the Youth Coalition of the ACT have welcomed the release of the Standing Committee on Education, Employment and Youth Affairs’ report on the Management and Minimisation of Bullying and Violence in ACT Schools.

In May 2019, ACTCOSS made a submission to the Committee’s Inquiry, calling for a range of collaborative responses between schools and the community to support all young Canberrans to succeed at school. The Committee’s report released today indicates that key elements of our advocacy on equity-based reforms to education in the ACT have been picked up. We welcome the following recommendations from the report:

  • The ACT Government partner with community agencies to provide independent support and guidance to students and their families when preparing for a formal restorative conference following incidents of bullying or violence
  • The ACT Government employ fulltime social workers and youth workers in every ACT school
  • The ACT Government continue to recruit additional school psychologists and provide psychological support services outside school hours and in school holidays.

ACTCOSS CEO Susan Helyar said, “In its report, the Committee has recognised the importance of a partnership between the ACT Government and community agencies to support students and families to overcome and resolve incidents of bullying or violence at school. In our joint Education Equity campaign launched in 2016, ACTCOSS and the Youth Coalition published stories of community services and schools working together, highlighting how this partnership benefits the young people they work with. We welcome the Committee’s recommendation on school-community collaboration, particularly as a further step towards a genuine bilateral school and community partnership model.

“Bringing community services into schools recognises that student safety and wellbeing cannot be dealt with by the school on its own. As we noted in our submission, there are a variety of factors that influence a student’s behaviour, including the school, family, society and community. Collaboration between these partners is therefore a key tool to responding to and preventing bullying and violence.    

“We particularly note that it is vital to engage with community agencies who have expertise assisting students with disabilities, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students, and LGBTQI students. These cohorts are often overrepresented amongst students experiencing difficulty or discrimination at school, and should be provided with safe and tailored supports.

“We strongly welcome the Committee’s recommendations on employing fulltime social workers and youth workers in schools and recruiting school psychologists to work outside school hours and terms. These steps will ensure students can access essential social support services, with continuity of care. We have been progressing this ask since 2014, and most recently in our submission on ACT Budget Priorities 2019-20, where we noted that resourcing workers that are not restricted by school hours and terms, would most effectively support ACT children and families who are at risk of disengagement from the education system.

“Social workers and youth workers are often already working with students and families in the community and are therefore able to respond with a mindset that reaches outside the school gate. In addition, they may be well placed to identify students who are at risk of poor safety and wellbeing, so they can act early. This is a different, less clinical service than offered by the school psychologist model, and we thank the Committee for including it in its report.”

Ms Helyar concluded, “Overall, this report includes encouraging steps towards the school-community partnership model for which we have been advocating for several years. Importantly, we note that community agencies must be properly resourced to engage with and provide services within schools. This includes Aboriginal community-controlled organisations, and community organisations with expertise supporting students with disabilities and LGBTQI students.”

For more information or comment please contact
Susan Helyar, Chief Executive Officer, ACTCOSS, on 0448 791 987 or 02 6202 7200 or
Justin Barker, Executive Director, Youth Coalition of the ACT, on 02 6247 3540.