It’s about teaching them that conflict is normal, and emotions are normal. It's what we do with the emotions that’s important. Sometimes you find out along the support journey that it’s not bullying. It’s just that the child doesn't have the resilience and emotional regulation skills to cope with what is being said or done in the playground. It’s like an onion; you peel back one layer and then boom! There’s another layer. So you just work very slowly in a strategic way towards developing a goal with the family and child.

All families set a goal that we can work towards; it might be getting there attendance up to 85%, and there’s a lot of things that may need to occur for that to happen. You might talk to the school, you might talk to the family, but you want to make sure you work one to one with the child around what is actually happening for them at school, and how we can make that process a bit easier for them.

There was one student this year that I hadn’t been able to talk to as much because of COVID-19. When we did get to skype for the first time, she was really excited. The first thing she wanted to tell me was that she’d only had one report for the whole year. She told me she had been practicing the breathing technique I had shown her to calm down. She said “I’ve been minding my own business, Miss”. Her friendships had improved, and things had gotten better in general.

We may have only played a small part in that, but it’s being able to see some of those seeds that you’ve planted - all of a sudden grow.

I can say from my own experiencesthatbullying is terrible and it is tough, but you can learn a lot about yourself. Own your body and who you are. You just need to find a way to be ok with being you, because there is only one of you in this world.

I grew up on a farm and from a young age we were taught to be respectful, that everyone has different emotions and feelings. I went from a primary school with 6 kids in year 6 to 200 kids in year 7. Coming from the farm to an inner coastal area, a lot of those kids didn’t understand that way of living, and they could be quite mean about that. There wasn’t a service that I could talk to about it, and I didn’t trust the school support at the time.

I think if there was a service like Interrelate back then I probably would not have isolated myself as much. I threw myself into my horses and study because it was safer, and they were likeminded people. Now as an adult, I have some of that lived experience for bullying and body image. It can be horrible, but it doesn’t have to ruin your life. After all it led me to this point in my life where I can now help young people who are experiencing similar issues.