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An open letter to the Prime Minister of Australia

Dear Prime Minister,

I wasn’t sure how to address your government’s latest announcement yesterday. The age old belief that announcing unpopular moves late on Friday no longer has the same power it did in the years before social media. Social media now means an unpopular announcement now trends on Twitter within minutes of the announcement and, if it’s on a Friday, that announcement has the weekend to fester and build momentum.

When I read about your government’s decision to not only make substantial changes to the Safe Schools programme, but to cease its funding I was initially enraged. I wasn’t very coherent, but then again neither were a lot of people who took to social media in shock at the Government’s decision.

I know you have a social media team, frankly I felt sorry for them yesterday, who manage your twitter account. They would have been first hand witnesses to your mentions exploding as people attempted to reach out and express their distress. I have to give them credit where it’s due, unlike most of your front bench they don’t block people who disagree with you. You might want to have one of your social media team explain to the social media teams of your Ministers that blocking dissenting voices doesn’t mean the people themselves are silenced, but I digress.

In September 2015 the Liberal Party voted to remove then Prime Minister Tony Abbott from a position he was obviously never capable of fulfilling. They chose to replace him with yourself. The popular, man of the people with a penchant for leather jackets and taking selfies while using public transport.

For a moment there was a collective sigh of relief. No longer would Australia have to endure a man determined to make himself a wartime leader. No longer would every media conference be a series of three word slogans. No longer would people watching the media conferences have to count the number of Australian flags before Tony Abbott appeared, to ascertain whether this particular media conference was about stopping the boats, axing the tax, or an imminent invasion of ISIS on our shores.

The man, who had regularly led the preferred Prime Minister polls since the time of the Julia Gillard Government, was finally in place. The man who was a fierce supporter of Climate Change, who publicly spoke against his own party when it came to Marriage Equality and the wastefulness of the Plebiscite. The man who publicly supported a referendum on Australia’s independence from having the Queen of England as our Head of State.

This man, the one who regularly took selfies of himself with “the people”, who took the train or ferry at every given media opportunity, the one with principals that both Liberal and Labor supporters alike supported, had rolled the government on it’s head. In your press conference after securing the Prime Ministership the country thought “well, there’s that done. The darkest period in Australian political history is done and dusted“.

Dyed-in-the-wool Labor voters threw a collective fit as they saw their best chance at winning the next election relegated to the back bench. All but the far right wing nut jobs of the Liberal voters cheered, as they saw a return to the golden days of Menzies and Howard with an intelligent and successful Liberal Leader back in power, one the Labor party wasn’t going to be able to beat.

That was in September 2015. It wasn’t long before those who don’t vote Liberal simply because their families have for generations, began to wonder what you’d promised your party for votes. The Government Minister who publicly declared the Marriage Equality plebiscite to be a ridiculous idea, as Parliament had the power to make the change themselves, suddenly was all for supporting the costly and divisive public poll. No date, just some time in the future.

The Prime Minister who, when ousted as Opposition Leader, wrote a scathing attack on Tony Abbott’s climate change blindness suddenly reversing his position. It even appears that public letter you posted on your blog was removed.

It became obvious very quickly, you were not the man you had led us to believe. Your government is stuck in inertia. It hasn’t moved on from the policies that brought about the end of Tony Abbott. It’s still pushing ahead with policies that will, ultimately, split the country down the middle.

You talk a good game of innovation and exciting times, but you’re not showing any innovation through your actions.

Senate Voting Reform, initially a Labor idea that was met with howls of “stacking the deck”, has just passed under your watch. I fail to see how it is now considered innovative reform, designed to put the power back in the voters hands when it was stacking the deck when suggested by Labor.

You do realise without the Liberal Party preference deals, your own Minister for Employment and Minister for Women wouldn’t have won her Senate place, scoring a smaller number of votes than Ricky Muir did.

I don’t say all of this to offend you. I say it as someone who refused to vote for Tony Abbott in 2013 but, publicly stated he would have voted for you had you been the opposition leader at the 2013 election. I say it as someone who made the mistake of trusting that you were the man of principles you claimed to be, despite knowing people who have known you most of their lives who told me you were nothing like the public image, that you were ruthless, power hungry and would sell your soul to win another election.

I didn’t believe them then. I still believe that somewhere beneath the veneer of charm there is a real man, who sits back at night and sees the damage he is doing to our country and its people, and worries that he gave away too much to get a job he could be so much better at if he did what he believed, not what he promised backroom power brokers.

I say this to express, in the only way I know how, my utter disappointment and the disappointment of many other Australians.

But, back to the changes your government have announced in regards to the Safe Schools program. I struggled last night to think how I could put this in words. I wanted to be clear, but not rude. I decided to sleep on it. It seems to have been a good idea. Last night I was choking with rage, about all I was good for was inventing new swear words and that wouldn’t have done anyone any good.

An open letter filled with vitriol and abuse would have been ignored. No one who reads this would have gotten beyond the first paragraph, let alone if by some miracle, this link arrives on your iPhone one morning on your commute to your Sydney office.

This morning I thought about addressing this issue with you again and decided I’d tell you a story. For readers of my blog, it’s not a new story. But it is a story about young boy who was different and the pain he experienced growing up. A pain that even today manifests itself in ways he didn’t expect, even though he’s now a 42 year old man.

I was told when I was younger that bullies will never win. That ultimately people see them for what they are; scared, lonely little people who need to tear others down to feel any form of their own power. Yesterday, your government handed the bullies – both in your Government and outside of it – the win they’ve been craving and the public recognition that hate is something to be nurtured.

The story I want to tell you begins in late January 1979. I was five years old and just starting Kindergarten. I can still remember my family telling me how exciting it was to be a big boy, that going to school was going to be a great adventure. It was also the year I learned my family tells lies. School was not a great adventure. It began as it ended, a tortuous place where a small boy was victimised and bullied, daily!

As an only child, I was very lucky I had family and cousins by the truckload. But in my family I was the only child my parents could have. The years before school were filled with fun and games, and lots of love. Going to school I was told, would be the same. It would be where I would learn new things, meet new friends. There’d be friends and games, parties and a whole new world.

The first time I was called a fairy was the second day of Kindergarten. I didn’t know what it meant. The older brother of a classmate and his friends called me that. He told his brother – my classmate – it meant I wanted to have sex with boys, and boys didn’t do that, only evil boys did who wanted to go to hell. And so it began.

Fairy, became pansy. Pansy, became poofter. Poofter became Faggot. Faggot become AIDS carrier (by then it was the early 80’s and HIV was all over the news). AIDS carrier became Dirty Faggot. Dirty Faggot became, well it became a lot of things but I’m sure you get my point by now.

School – remember Prime Minister,  we’re still in Primary School here – became a daily war. I was sick all the time. Every single day I tried to stay home. It must have been hell for my parents. The crying, the battles to get me on the bus, to make sure I stayed on the bus and didn’t get off at the next stop and walk home. The vomiting as the bus came around the corner.

We didn’t know it then, and it would take many years for me to find out what it was, but dealing with a child terrorised and filled with anxiety attacks before his age hit double digits must have been hell to deal with for my parents. I know it was for me.

I learned early not to go to the bathroom at school if I could avoid it. The first time I was ever hit, I was washing my hands in the boys room. Two of the school bullies saw me at the sink and hit me because obviously I was there to have sex with people. I was told I wasn’t allowed to use the toilets and if they caught me in there again, they’d beat me up.

For a seven year old boy surrounded by bigger and older kids, who’d already endured two years of psychological abuse, I believed them. So I taught myself to hold on. To endure the pain, and to try and sneak out of class if I could.

By the time I reached high school I was six feet tall and fat as a barn. I ate, because it was all that gave me any form of pleasure. When I got older food was replaced with alcohol, but that’s a story for another day. You would think at that size, I would have been able to defend myself, but you’re wrong.

By the time I reached high school I was broken. Seven years of daily torture, teachers turning a blind eye, physical and emotional attacks if I so much as looked up at someone left me broken. The best a teacher in primary school ever did was tell my parents I needed to toughen up. At the time I was five.

High school was a whole new level of torture. I went to an all boys catholic high school. All the catholic schools in the area funnelled their teenage boys into that place. Hundreds of fresh faces, and a hundred or so that I’d been stuck with for seven years. It didn’t take long for me to realise that while there were fresh faces, there was also fresh tormentors.

As the boys all amalgamated into new groups, expanding their social networks word spread.

See that fat bloke, with the freckles. He’s a fucking poofter. Don’t go near him or he’ll try and have sex with you.

Suddenly from a hundred or so tormentors and torturers, it felt like there were thousands of them. Not only in my year, but in every year there were people who hit me, pushed me out of the way, locked me in rooms. I found solace in the library for a time.

Until they found me there, and the librarian told me that I needed to get more sun and exercise and I was banned from the library unless it was Thursday.

Being a teenager is hard enough and by then I knew the torturers were right. I was gay. I realised that the minute my hormones kicked in. I knew by the end of primary school these boys were correct. I was a poofter. I was going to burn in hell. I was going to get AIDS and die, alone, hated by everyone. I knew I deserved the beatings, the abuse. I never raised a hand in my own defence. Why would I? They were right. I was a disgusting, perverted faggot. They’d known all along, thanks to the older brother of a kid I was in Kindergarten with.

When I was in Year 10, I was called to the Principals office. We had a new principal that year. He was younger – by about 50 years – than the old one. He had curly brown hair and thick rimmed black glasses. He told me to sit down in a leather chair that faced his desk, and then he sat on the other side of the desk in his own brown leather chair.

I had no idea what I’d done wrong. I had never been in trouble. I’d never spoken if I could avoid it. The Principal looked at me, he rested his chin on steepled fingers.

“Mike,” he began. “It’s been brought to my attention by your teachers that your life here is hell. The teachers have told me about the abuse you receive, and have said you never complain, you never go to them for help. They’re powerless to step in, if they do it will only make it worse.”

I looked at this man, the first teacher in my entire education experience who addressed the issue head on. I’m going to expelled for being gay, I thought to myself. I mean seriously, where else could this be heading?

“Mike, I need for you to defend yourself. You’ve not got much longer here at the school before you leave us and go to another school for your final two years of education. You’re a bright boy, smarter than you let on. I want you to know, that if you need to defend yourself physically there’ll be no punishment. The teachers and I are in agreement. The only way to get out of this alive is to fight back. Pick the loudest voice and knock him flat on his back.”

Can you imagine that Prime Minister? A high school Principal who had the backing of the entire teaching staff, telling me to fight. Telling me he’d stood as witness to the abuse I was receiving and decided I had to be given this power, that no other student ever had. I remember thanking him for his concern and leaving.

I was relieved I wasn’t to be expelled for being a pervert. I never once thought of using the permission I was given in that office that day.

About a week later, the physical abuse ramped up a notch, and I can still feel the brick wall slamming into my back as he student pushed me into it when I think about it. I can still feel his hand as it grabbed hold of my crotch, squeezing until pain and tears came into my eyes. I can still hear him, as he used his own body weight to hold me to the wall while he told me if I wanted to be a girl so much he’d show me how it felt. I can still feel him grabbing my wrist and shoving my hand into his shorts, while he told me I’d enjoy it because I was poof and a dick was a dick.

Funny story, that was the first time I felt another penis, but I digress.

The only reason it stopped was another guy walked around the corner. He never picked on me, but never spoke to me either. I was invisible to all but the ones who made it their mission to torture me. He simply grabbed the other guy by the neck and threw him into a garden bed and told him to fuck off.

He never looked at me, never even acknowledged I was standing there still pushed against the wall but this time by own weight as I waited in fear of his attack.

The first guy simply snarled at me as he pulled himself from the garden bed and told me he’d kill me. Several years later, he moved into my suburb. I didn’t realise it. I was trying to lose weight at the time and had gone for a late night walk. I heard a foot step scrape on the gravel road, and when I turned around there he was, a whipper snipper chord in his hands. His friends had followed him, and they made sure nothing happened.

I heard a couple of weeks later he’d committed suicide. I couldn’t feel sad about that.

The straw that broke my back completely happened when I was in Year Eleven. I went to the bathroom, it was just on the end of lunch and the quadrangle had been deserted. I assumed I was safe. I wasn’t.

One of the bully packs in the new school – and there were so many to chose from really – was waiting for me just inside the door. I’m nothing if not a creature of habit.

He was holding a dildo, I’m sure you know what they are. He and his friends held me against a wall and told me if they saw me in school again, they’d use it on me. Once they’d delivered their ultimatum I walked out of the school, not just the bathroom but the school. I put my locker key on the desk at reception, and walked out.

I never went back. I walked to the station, got on the train and came home. That day, 18 months from officially finishing my high school career, my school education ended.

Still, for all the abuse I was lucky. You see,  I was raised in the time before social media Mr Prime Minister.

I was raised so when I walked into the house, and closed the door behind me I was safe. Today’s kids, be they LGBT or just different to the pack, don’t have that luxury. They walk in the front door and there’s social media: Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter. The victimisation and the bullying continues even when they’re supposedly safe in their homes.

Had I not had that respite I wouldn’t be sitting here, telling you things I’ve never told anyone, writing to you to implore you to do something other than tell your rabid backbench to “behave nicely”.

Even with that respite I almost wasn’t here. The darkness of those days followed me and to a degree they still do.

I read last night on Twitter that children need bullies because it makes them tougher. It was a tweet sent out by someone supporting your government’s Safe Schools decision.

To that, I call bullshit. Children don’t need bullies. It doesn’t make them tougher, it runs the risk of breaking them altogether.

I’m now 42. I’ve been out of school for more than 25 years. In the dark of night I still hear them, the children I went to school with. In the dark of night I still hate myself for my weakness. In the dark of night I still feel the pain I endured. Abuse does not make a child stronger, it takes from them their innocence and worse of all, it takes from their hope and trust.

I hear people talk about their school years with nostalgia, for me even the thought of school still fills me with fear.

Prime Minister, your government made a monstrous decision on Friday. By announcing not only substantial changes to the Safe Schools programme, but also the end of funding in 2017, you have told the most vulnerable students in our country their lives don’t matter.

You have told those children they deserve no respect from their peers. You have taken a program originally released to combat the rising number of teen suicides and thrown it away, all to appease back benchers who will never support you.

Do you believe that Cory Bernardi or George Christensen will now throw rose petals on the ground as you walk past? Do you think they will now be on your side, supporting you in your role as Prime Minister? Of course they won’t.

You effectively gave the bullies your lunch money. They know now they only need to start a campaign for you and your Government to cave in.

I may have been bullied a lot as a child. I may have not spoken much and I may not have had friends. But I never gave the bullies my lunch money even if it could have bought me a week of peace and quiet.

I may have been next to useless in standing up to the bullies around me – something it appears we may have in common – but I never sold anyone else down the river to appease them.

In September 2015, you and Julie Bishop stood beaming at the podium heralding a new age in Australian politics. You made promises to the people of this country to rule in our interests. Since then you have done nothing to turn the growing tide of hate that has infected us since September 2013.

You have ensured your place in Australian history. You are the Prime Minister. No one will ever be able to take that away from you. But whether or not you are good, useless, or the shortest termed Prime Minister in our history is still for you, and the electorate, to decide.

In closing Prime Minister, I hope to impress upon you the importance and consequences of your government’s decision yesterday. It is of no value for you to step forward and blame an independent review when this all goes to hell.

You can not wash the stink of this decision off your hands, no matter how many bottles of expensive after shave you may bathe in. Your government’s announcement yesterday will have two certain effects.

Firstly, vulnerable children will be the ones effected the most, and that will cause more long term damage than you can possibly imagine. Secondly, you have damaged your reputation among LGBT people and their families. No one with an LGBT relative, child, niece, nephew or grandchild can look to you and say “With Malcolm Turnbull in power, my child will be safe“.

All they can say with any assurance is that the man who takes selfies, is interested only in himself.

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266 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on Unload and Unwind and commented:
    I’ve been trying to find the words to describe just how wrong the decision that the Turnbull government made this Friday when it caved to the bullies of the religious right wing zealots. Turns out I didn’t have to find the words because someone has already said what needs to be said and has much more reason than I to say it. Wonderful and terrible all at once – Thanks for sharing this story:

    • Daniele Blumke says

      Thanks Mike for your eloquent & well-written open letter to the PM & your willingness to share your own painful memories of school. I will need to get a hold of the review of the Safe School Program. I know we have educating our kids in Grade 4 upward about their sense of self, changing relationships with peers, family and associated changes in their brains, bodies & emotions & being aware of when a situation makes them feel unsafe & always being able to ask for help. The information was always provided in an age-appropriate manner & acknowledged parents as the first teachers of their children. If the safe school program covers this type of information I am surprised an evaluation would say it was sexualizing our children. I mean i know it briefly touched on male-female and homeosexual relationships in a matter-of-fact way but not in any detail. It covers respecting women & how porn is usually at odds with this but this is only upper primary care kids/first year high school kids.

      I guess many of us don’t realize how bad it was for some of our peers & like you I am very glad we didn’t have social media to contend with.

      I do remember looking for the child in primary school who was jeered at each day & walking them home each day to make sure that at least was bareable. I due by my sheer presence I could change the dynamics. Similarly i have taught my children to never condone bullies to stand up for the under-dog & make the bullies stop.

      Mike sounds like the PM has created an opportunity for policy change & for a good program to be tweaked & rebated with additional funding. Which Department was this program funded from?

      • Hi Daniele, I’m not sure which department was funding the programme. I assume the Department of Education, given it was Simon Birmingham who made the announcements. I would have loved someone to walk home with me as a kid. It would have made me feel like I had at least a short period of the day where I belonged. What you were doing was lovely and good on you for teaching your kids that same lesson.

  2. You said everything I could want to say on this matter and you had more right to speak on it than I. I hope you don’t mind that I re-blogged this and shared it to FB and Twitter. Thank you for your story and you’re right he’s effectively given the bullies his lunch money although I doubt he’ll pay the way so many young people have in the past and will in the future,

    • Hi Jenni, I’m glad you like my Letter and I’m more than happy for it to be shared on FB & Twitter and be reblogged.

      • Marilyn says

        Brilliantly stated. I grew up in a tiny town in the late 1950’s and 1960’s and encountered terrible bullying on all sorts of levels.
        1. I was sent to Coventry for a year when I was 7 for daring to talk to the catholic kids in the convent school, they were friends from the first small town I lived in.
        2. My surname is Shepherd and I got here shep, here shep, here boy, here boy and other references to being a sheep dog.
        3. I saw two kids of a family friend being ruthlessly bullied because they had been adopted, one of them tried to kill himself many times and the other was a sole parent at 17. The parents of these kids were two of the nicest people on earth and the dad died just last year.
        4. I had my hair cut very short to emulate Mia Farrow when I was 14 and spent the next year or so being called a lesbian, so I got it cut even shorter and that is where it is nearly 50 years later.
        5. I watched a tiny autistic boy, son of the headmaster, ruthlessly abused by some of the bullies in my small school and it sickened me.
        6. A family of very poor people on my street had nothing much to wear so myself and another neighbour gathered up our clothes and gave them to the kids – we were brutalised by our own parents for daring to give a damn.
        7. I watched two girls being unmarried mothers – the first when I was 13 had her baby forcibly removed and she killed herself a year or so later, the second was 16 and the kids of the town shielded her from the same fate.
        8. I watched with horror as two gay friends were tortured by the scum bag rednecks in my home town, they both killed themselves in their early 20’s.
        9. I was an anti-Vietnam war protestor at 13 and horrifically abused by many in my home town as a traitor.
        10. my parents sent me to the city to study at a business school which was torture because they dressed me like a pauper and the bullying by all girls at that school was horrific to say the least.

        Bullying at school is the scourge of the earth but now we have governments that bully and torture us with spying on us, trading humans for racist votes, bombing people to bits even though they have not harmed us.

        Now this decision last Friday was the last straw, they are cowards, bullies and thugs who must be voted out at the next election and a fresh lot of more decent and enlightened humans elected.

        Want to know what saved my sanity through the school years? When I was 9 they opened a small library in the town institute and that is basically where I lived until I was 15 and could argue my case coherently.

      • Marilyn, your story and the ones of the people you know from your town are tragic. Bullying impacts so many people, but is consistently dismissed as “kids will be kids”. It’s not. Bullying doesn’t fade as people get older, the bullies learn to do it differently and/or the victims learn to bite back. Thank you for sharing and for taking the time to comment.

      • Adam Denny says

        I spent 1983 – 88 being mentally and physically tortured at…oh yeah, no First Amendment protection talking about back home in NSW. So let us say a Central Coast Higb School. I got into the University of Newcastle through direct entrance exams. High school for me was a waste of time. Only thing is, Turnbull is a self desribed Libertarian. I would expect nothing else from the man than you deserve failure, and be happy if I deem to let you shine my shoes.

      • Hi Adam, thank you for taking the time to comment on the blog. I too was a Central Coast High School graduate. Maybe there was something in the water up here that made kids extra vicious. I’m glad you got on with your life though and went to University. Sounds like you’ve moved on and are doing well.

      • Hi Mike
        Thank you so much for sharing such a personal story. It is beautifully and eloquently written about a traumatic experience.
        I too wanted to shout in anger when I heard the news. It is tempting, but your response is so much more – it is a gift that treats the reader as another human listening and caring.
        I hope the PM does this and supports the children currently saved by Safe Schools.

        Thank you
        Ruth

      • Hello Ruth, thank you for taking the time to both read my post and comment. I really appreciate it. I too hope that if not Safe Schools another programme aimed at creating a safe education environment can be instituted into Australia’s schools.

      • smokemasterjohn says

        Mike – a phenomenal and well spoken expose of the heart. My hat is of to you, mate. Marilyn makes the point “Bullying at school is the scourge of the earth but now we have governments that bully and torture us with spying on us, trading humans for racist votes, bombing people to bits even though they have not harmed us.” This is not hard to understand. The bullies grew up, just like we did, and we have let them take charge of society too. Funny thing about bullies, they’re like vampires – they don’t handle the light well. As a bullied youth, I discovered the same thing your Principle said, that it was a psychological game and that the minute I stood up to them convincingly it was over. Oh there were threats, and muttering, but it was OVER. I had occasion to demonstrate this for my brother some years later after he, at 6’2″ had been harassed on the way home from school by a much smaller guy with a “fundamental bully” complex going on. Even later, I was able to illustrate the point to several of my daughters. Simply having ONE person go into the fray with a seriously anti-bully attitude can send them cringing off into the night.

        I hate to be the bearer of these tidings but we are living in the world that the bullies think they own. I am encouraged to take on the bullies to this day by the words of W. Somerset Maugham, from “Then and Now” – “”In this world of sin and sorrow if virtue triumphs over vice, it is not because it is virtuous, but because it has better and bigger guns; If honesty prevails over double dealing, it is not because it is honest, but because it has a stronger army more ably led; and if good overcomes evil, it is not because it is good, but because it has a well lined purse. It is well to have right on our side, but it is madness to forget that unless we have might as well it will avail us nothing. We must believe that God loves men of good will, but there is no evidence to show that He will save fools from the result of their folly.”

        We can take back our respective societies from the bullies but it is a MUCH bigger problem now than it was if we had done it at 8 or 10 or 13, and there is little to suggest that the bullies will respond any more functionally now to sensible logic, such as you have provided here, than they did then. If anything there are more of them now because they’ve had the opportunity to reproduce. In the quote above the “folly” is to presuppose that grown-up bullies are at all aligned with, or open to, common sense or social justice. They are not. They are, first and foremost, bullies. They have never grown up, and they most likely never will. If we truly want our world to believe and act in alignment with the thoughts you have provided here, we will need to take it back. They will never give it to us.

      • Hi SmokemasterJohn, thank you for your well thought out reply to my post. I absolutely agree that bullies will never give up what they see as theirs. If we want it back we have to take it back. By putting this post out there – and leaving it open as the views rolled in – I attempted to take a bit of my own power and aim it towards taking back a bit of balance. I am honoured so many lovely people have responded to the post and seen something of value in it, and it furthering the conversation.

  3. Paul says

    Intriguing post Mike. I followed here from Jenni’s site and found your letter very interesting.Not being up on Australian politics, I am not sure of the political ramifications of the bill you describe but the overall impression of the man taking selfies being about himself is not surprising to me. I have often wondered at the preoccupation of taking selfies. For a politician that must be nice – he can create his own fan club just composed of various selfies.

    • The Safe Schools programme is an opt in training programme that schools – previously both Primary and High Schools – could chose to run to teach the students about developing a safe school environment, free from bullying and harassment. It came into being after a series of young kids committed suicide and was funded by the previous Labor Government. Recently, a couple of back benchers started a smear campaign, making incorrect claims it taught children to decide they gay, to decide to be transgender, and claimed it was about the sexualisation of children, directing them to porn sites etc. It was a load of garbage, but the Prime Minister appeased the back benchers by instituting an independent review. When the review came out, the Government effectively gutted the programme. They removed it from Primary Schools, made it that students who needed the programme the most had to get parental permission to participate, effectively forcing vulnerable LGBT students to come out to their parents, which from my own experience is easier said than done regardless of how accepting your parents are. The Government also, quietly announced they would cease funding the programme in 2017, and would not renew the funding mechanism in 2018. Having been through what I went through – not a unique story, by any means – the Government has made the program a toothless-tiger and the children it was designed to protect, whether LGBT or simply different from the pack, are going to be the victims of the governments fear of it’s own back bench. This issue has put the most vulnerable kids in Australia right in the firing line. Our own government sold out it’s most vulnerable kids, all to appease a handful of far right wing back benchers, who clutch their pearls and scream “won’t somebody think of the children,” the minute the need media coverage.

      • Paul says

        That’s terrible. Here in Canada we have had numerous incidents, nationwide, recently of LGBT teens committing suicide when bullied by others. We have addressed it with anti-bullying legislation but that is rather like using a bazooka to hunt mosquitoes – a very blunt and ineffective tool designed to minimize the transmission of hatred – not the fermentation or expression of hatred. It helps but does not address the problem when it doesn’t address the hatred itself. The hatred just reforms and finds other means of expression. Education and guidance is what is needed not just punishment. It interests me personally because my Mum is Lesbian and when I see what horrors she has to navigate, even as an adult in a free country like Canada, it scares me. She is in her 80’s now and had a very prominent career as a professor at UBC where she taught Masters and PhD level students in Child Abuse.She also did some consulting work including advising government judicial inquiries on child abuse.My young life was filled with stories (at the dinner table and in conversation) of abuse of children and the severe impact on their lives and how inadequate government legislation was on all fronts. For me as an adult to see any government rescinding or removing legislation designed to protect children and LGBT members of our society, makes me shiver with the consequences. As I have grown and lived life, I paid particular attention to these cases and any change in legislation affecting them.

        As a umbrella concept, many of the great thinkers have defined “civilization” as : “the measure of how we treat the most vulnerable and defenseless in our society.” As such the work of your new PM is reducing the level of civilization in Australia.

        I write a regular Sunday “coffee” post over at Mark Bialczak’s in New York. I would like to use this post of yours as the basis of a discussion this week, if you are OK with that.

        Thank you very much for bringing this to our attention Mike. It took a great deal of courage for you to share with us. I am honored.

      • Hi Paul, more than happy for you to use this post as the basis for a discussion. The internet always surprises me. I hadn’t expected this post to reach beyond friends and family and now it’s reaching to Canada and other countries across the world. The Safe Schools programme actually sort to address the issues you raise, not just to “stop bullying,” but to educate the students themselves as to why differences are not something to be cannon fodder so to speak. I’m glad you liked the post and that it resonated with you. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  4. Superbly written and argued. I hope this ends up on Turnbull’s smart phone one train trip and that he feels thoroughly ashamed of the sellout he is.

    Congratulations on being able to articulate your pain so eloquently to aid a greater cause. You are an inspiration.

  5. School was hell says

    Did you copy my story?? 🙂 There are some differences but that childhood at school is from my textbook too! .
    I ended up making it through year 11-just. I repeated year 11 and was in a better place for year 11 and 12.
    The other difference is that the one time my parents complained to the school was the day after the bullies pushed me under a bus and I was almost killed. The year master told my parents that if “I was less of a poonce, I would not get bullied”. The deputy headmaster told me to throw myself into church and community service. The school did add teachers on patrol on the bus lanes and life was better in that party of the hell hole. No one understands why I hate school reunions.

    • lol, nope definitely didn’t copy your story. It’s sad that this story isn’t unique. Generations of LGBT kids have endured what I put up with, and worse. If I’d stayed in Year 11 I wouldn’t be here today. I’m really glad you got through it though.

      • School was hell says

        You have written what most gay guys I know experienced. These are the who are alive -too many others died at their own hands or were bashed in parks, their homes or the street.
        Thanks for sharing your story today and God damn the bullies in government who have done the evil they did this week

      • Hi Ciel, I’m sorry my post made you cry. That wasn’t my intention. Thank you for reading and commenting though, that’s greatly appreciated.

  6. suracim says

    Brilliant. Thank you. Words can’t express. But you know that. X

  7. As a retired primary school teacher, I whole heartedly agree with your story. I have seen and heard the pain children who are slightly different in some way, live through every day. I also know how difficult it is to try and change perceptions in other children that are brought with them from homes laden with racism, sexism and/or homophobia. I too hope Mr Turnbull reads your post. I am a long time Labor supporter and back in September 2015 I would have actually voted for the Liberal party – first time in my life! But decisions like the one made on Friday have now changed my mind again. In the blink of an eye, a step down the path of acceptance has been halted – again!

    • Thank you, Anne. I imagine it must be difficult for teachers to be in the position of witnessing the abuse and being unable to bring it to an end. I’ve never blamed my teachers for not stepping in. There was nothing they could have done anyway. Like you, when Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister I faced the very real choice of voting for the Liberals for the first time in my life. But, his absolute lack of principals, of standing up for what he believed in made that a short lived decision.

  8. Well written and it resonated with my life in high school. As a result, I was in and out of therapy in my 20s, 30s until one day I wrote my story. Scars are still there, but have faded significantly. No more nightmares.

    • Thank you. I did the therapy route too. I did the self medication route – not one I’d recommend honestly. Time does heal, it’s a cliche but it’s true. I’m glad you’re no longer suffering nightmares. And I’m glad you’re still here.

  9. Mark says

    Brilliantly written Mike, I’m 41 so at school the same years as you. I too suffered at the hands of bullies, never fought back, nor seeked assistance. Also never gave up my lunch money.
    To this day I still struggle with the quetion, Why? I don’t know what I did, or why I was one of those picked on.
    I have two younger brothers who were also bullied, the middle one is gay and really struggled. Unlike you he had me and his younger brother to step in and protect but of course this meant we were bullied more for standing up for him.
    Bullying doesn’t just effect the person being bullied it effects whole families and this decision is a disgrace!

    • Good morning Mark, thank you for commenting. I’m sorry you and your brothers all endured bullying. It most definitely does negatively effect whole families. I think for a long time my family tried to wrap me in cotton wool to try and protect me from the outside world. It didn’t really do anything, the damages – and voices – were already lodged in my head. I’m glad you all made it out of the experience, and I’m very glad you brother had his brother’s to support him, regardless of his sexuality.

  10. Robert says

    Wow, what a terrible experience you had Mike, and thank you for sharing it with us. No child should ever have to experience what you , and so many others, have to deal with in a place where all children should feel safe. I am gay, but have never experienced bullying, discrimination in any form, I feel very lucky.

    • Hi Robert, thank you for commenting. Sadly, my story is hardly unique. There are so many kids, be them LGBT or just different from the pack who experience bullying on a daily basis. I’m glad you managed not to be bullied. I know I went to school with other gay guys who weren’t bullied either.

  11. Kit Burton-Senior says

    Hi Mike,
    Thank you for sharing your experiences so candidly. Like many other commenters, your story has so many uneasy parallels to mine. I went to school about 10 years after you, and although I was mercifully spared from most physical violence, I endured an endless 12 years of verbal and emotional violence, which changed my life in exactly the way you have described.
    Before reading your post, I had also shared my own story on Facebook, in response to the Safe Schools decision. In the last 2 days, I have received an overwhelming amount of support from friends and strangers both. Many are school friends and teachers who were there at the time and have messaged me to tell me they wish they had known and could have helped at the time. Others have called me brave for sharing my story, as I call you brave, and have passed it on to other people in their lives who they feel need to hear it, whether those people are or were on the receiving end of bullying, or whether they are being made to reflect on what they themselves did to others as children. Although reopening these wounds has been painful, it has ultimately been very cathartic and affirming. I sincerely hope that your sharing your story with others gives you the same relief.

    • Hi Kit, thank you for your comment. It is a very cathartic experience, I’ve got to say. The response to this post is overwhelming me at the moment, I never expected anyone but friends and families to read it but the comments here, on Facebook and on Twitter are stunning me speechless, not something I’m now known for lol.

  12. Simona Fleming says

    Thank you for you courage of sharing your devastating recount of your childhood experiences. I am not gay but I was a migrant child in primary school. Though I supposedly belonged to an “in ” group in primary school there was still an active bullying culture within this group. Whoever came last to school was the one picked on. I could never understand it. I would like to share you story on my FB page.

  13. Spencer says

    Thank you for a great open letter to Mr Turnbull. I guess I was “lucky” at school … All the gay kids stayed together in high school .. It was a little easier! All power to you. Sp

    • Hi Spencer, thanks for your comment. I’ve since found out there were other gay students at my schools, but none of them made themselves known. They hid themselves and I can’t blame for that. If the roles were reversed, I probably would have done the same thing. Head down, get out alive.

      • YOUR LETTER IS DEEPLY DISTURBING TO ME AND MY FRIENDS AND LIKE MINDED AUSTRALIANS ! IF IT FALLS ON DEAF EARS WHEN READ BY THE P,M OR ANY OF THE LIBERAL PARTY PEOPLE THEY DO NOT DESERVE TO BE ELECTED EVER AGAIN TO REPRESENT THIS GREAT NATION ! AUDIT THEM AND KICK THEM OUT ! IN FACT THAT APPLIES TO THE OPPOSITION AND INDEPENDENTS AND GREENS AS WELL JUST DO IT ! AUSTRALIA !

      • Hi Tony, thank you for reading and taking the time to leave a comment. Whether the government acknowledge this post, there are hundred of people both here and on social media who have acknowledged the main message which is, All Bullying regardless of what it is over has to stop. There are a lot of people voting at the next election who will vote with their conscience and that can only be a good thing.

  14. Peter says

    I had wondered about George Christensen, and your article gave me a clue. I have not met him, but his photos show exactly the sort of heavily overweight bespectacled cherry-lipped “pretty boy” who would have been a natural target for the poofters-bashers he would have grown up with. So is George seeking self-protection by being the meanest ugliest basher on the block? That actually has nothing to do with whether George is or is not a faggot, as he would put it.
    By the way, as far as I know, George has nothing to worry about. Didn’t Bob Katter officially announce that there are no poonces in North Queensland?
    Just a thought.

    • Yes, Bob Katter once said there were no LGBT people in his electorate and if there were he’d walk backwards to Broome. I’m still waiting for him to start walking lol.

  15. Philip says

    Thanks Mike – well written!

    I was also bullied throughout primary & high school, thankfully not as harshly as you but still called every one of those names, spat on, punched, kicked, abused and made to feel isolated and scared at times.

    Luckily I had a circle of friends, mostly girls of course, who helped get me through, who allowed me to pretend that the bullies weren’t saying things loud enough that we could all hear. They kept me sane. I even had a couple of them stick up for me against those bullies at times.

    I wonder what it would have been like had I felt secure enough to tell those friends that “yes I’m gay” – because by high school I knew for sure! Thankfully years later, through the wonders of social media, I have been able to rekindle some of those friendships & yes, they all knew without me saying and are as wonderfully supportive now as they were then. However, I digress (it’s easy to do!).

    Like you, I am very disappointed with the Federal Government’s stance on the Safe School review. I think the PM is being weak & much too silent about it, where is he? I guess he has to allow his Education minister to try to explain it, but surely the PM has a voice as well & he can still make a difference by recognising diversity, speaking out against bullies, and showing his support for the LGBTI youth & our community!!

    Out of interest, what are your thoughts on the Green’s back down on the Marriage Equality senate debate that they so loudly promoted early last week & so silently dropped in place of the senate voting reforms by the end of the week? Have they sold their soul to the Liberals?

    And please, don’t get me started on the plebiscite & the opportunity it gives for the haters, bullies & bigots to voice more of their vitriol.

    • I had a few girls at school who were kind to me, but mostly I faded into the woodwork until the bullies needed someone to terrorise. I rarely if ever see any of the people I went to school with on social media. I’ve no interest in reconnecting, there really wasn’t anyone there who was worth it anyway. I’ve got a great life now, good friends, good job so I’ve come along way from those days. Regarding the Greens and the Senate vote I’m annoyed the voted against is because they were focused on the Senate Reform Bill, and I’m equally annoyed the Labor voted against it later in the week. LGBT people are not a political football to be brought out and used to gain points from the other team. The level of immaturity in Australian politics is astounding lately. It’s like it’s populated with five year olds who are pumped full of sugar.

  16. Sarah says

    Hi Mike – Thankyou for this letter – I was a bit of a bully in primary school – and I was bullied also – I saw the light in high school when one of the prefects took me under her wing and helped me – I turned things right around and still to this day try to make up for that early part of me in my interactions with others – I strongly believe in karma and am happy to leave Karma to sort out these right wing nutjobs – I mean them
    no harm – just hope like me – I hope Ksrma helps them see the light – imagine how different I might have been if they had run this program back then

    • You were very lucky to have found a mentor in high school who was able to show you another way. That’s a great thing to be able to say. I think if Safe Schools had been around when we were younger, there wouldn’t be much of a need for it now. Unfortunately it wasn’t.

  17. Hi Mike,
    I am so did resisted and dismayed at everything this government does. I do hope he (Malcolm Turnbull)reads your letter.

  18. Kieran Butler says

    Hi Mike,

    Why is it that Australians like you continue to believe Turnbull would be persuaded by a treatise such as this?

    Fear and xenophobia, and the hatred that accompanies them are now deeply ingrained in Australian political culture. You can’t win an election in Australia without appealing to these basest of Australian instincts. Abbott was a master it. And if Turnbull wants to retain government he is going to have to learn. The decision on Safe Schools demonstrates he is slowly but surely working it out.

    Sadly, Australia has no other future but division, bitterness and the associated hatred. It starts in the schoolyard, and the type of bullying you experienced will continue to define what it means to be Australian.

    Turnbull can’t save any of us from that.

    Cheers, Kieran

    • Hi Kieran, I don’t for a moment believe that my open letter will change a thing. That wasn’t the point of it. The point was to address why Safe Schools is needed, not to make the Prime Minister change his mind. And I think Australians, like me, continue to write treatise like this because it is in nature to want to be heard, to no allow people or government’s the opportunity to push the past under the carpet. Thank you for taking the time to read the post though Kieran, I’m very grateful that you did.

  19. gary says

    thank you so much for telling your story, mike … it’s like reading my own.

    • Hi Gary, thank you for letting me know you read the post. I’m sorry you experienced similar experiences though. Have a great Sunday.

  20. rob says

    Mike…….. i am in tears……i’m 55 and you described my whole liife in your essay……but I never got over it. Bashed everyday at school and although I went on to uni with 3 degrees, taught for 10 years and then went on to run two successful companies and am now retired…….the pain has kicked in again…… i use to drown out the pain by working and studying , which was my escape, i now find myself back daily thinking as a child. The damage done never went away ….I simply hid it…..the older I get the more angry I become……..Thankyou for your beautiful words which I shall share with you permission I hope!

    • Hi Rob, Of course you’re more than welcome to share the post. That’s why it’s there, in the hope people may find it and find some form of acknowledgement they were not alone, no matter how we felt at the time. I’m truly sorry that you’re still having trouble with the long-term effects.

    • I’m so sorry you were treated so badly Rob. Please take care of yourself. The issues from our childhood have a way of resurfacing as we age. Have you thought about seeing someone to talk through what’s going on for you? I would really recommend it. There is nothing quite like being heard by someone who cares and yet not emotionally involved – they ask really good questions that support us to overcome these threads of the damage we endure in childhood before they knit themselves into blankets of pain and suffering – and if the blankets re knitted, they help to unpick them. I wish you all the very best and hope that you’ll explore the possibilities of healing. Big hugs from a total stranger, your words touch me deeply.

    • Daniele Blumke says

      Hang in there Rob & please find a good psychologist that gel with to talk to. It is no surprise your emotions have resurfaced now that you have more time to think. You really need to resolve some of those feelings that are impacting on the here and now. I know it will never change the past but you have to restart the healing process again.

      • I agree with Daniele, Rob. Finding a good psychologist I could talk to was really the beginning of a new start for me. I know as someone who was bullied it can be hard to let yourself trust someone else but it’s a worthy challenge to set yourself. Having that free space to just let it out, and let it go, is the best feeling.

  21. Tom Blair says

    Mike, thank you for your incredible letter. Whilst it was harrowing reading for this fellow bullying victim, your points were beautifully made. I hope that the current PM actually takes the time to read it. Perhaps on a train, instead of taking a selfie.
    IF only they’d had Safe Schools when I was in High School in particular I may have been a stronger person. The underlying taint of not being good enough is the residue of the bullying days.
    I saw one of the main perpetrators of the attacks on me about 20 years after school finished. All on for a chat, like butter wouldn’t melt.
    Astonishing really.
    Sorry, rambling……I think you are a wonderful writer and I wish you all the success imaginable.
    May someone see sense and reinstate the funding for the programme.
    Cheers Mike,
    tom x

    • Thank you for your message Tom. I’ve run into people who made my life hell when I’ve been in bars who acted like nothing had ever happened. It makes you wonder at times if you made it all up your head, only you know you didn’t. Thank you for your compliment on my writing too, that’s really nice of you.

  22. Thank you for this eloquent and moving post; I hope the PM reads it. I am sorry that your school experience was such a torment, and wish you had found a champion earlier, and an effective one.

    As a teacher of sex ed since 1990, now teaching in health science at uni, I have consistently used my position to educate and advocate that sexuality and gender are not binary and everyone is to be treated with respect. Safe schools is intended to change the culture so everyone in the school is taking that stance, not just the hippie sex ed teacher. I had one principal in the late 80s, when hearing I was discussing HIV/AIDS with students, tell me ‘you can talk about AIDS as long as you don’t mention condoms’. His Catholicism (in a state school) was more important than the health of the students.

    • Hi Linda, thank you for your comment. I think the Safe Schools programme is such an important tool to change the culture of bullying in Australian education, regardless of whether that bullying is because a child is LGBT, Transgender or just different. It’s always great to see people like yourself who have been advocates for years about people being treated with respect, regardless of their differences.

      • Thank you for taking time to reply, Mike. It is much appreciated. Change has to come from the leaders, from admin, from the whole community. It is even harder to accept that the top leaders in the land have taken this retrograde step. Social media has an important role in creating change, and your post is an excellent contribution to that.

      • Thanks so much Linda. I agree, even in business – I produce events in my real job – you have to have change initiated from the top down, or nothing changes. If the leaders don’t get behind a new programme the staff won’t either. I can’t imagine school kids would be any different.

  23. Mark says

    I am just a straight old lefty but this story is so damn sad that it just couldn’t be made up. I recently fired back when the rabid christians (lower case intentional) went nuts about Play School (yep they get upper case) showing two gay dads with their child. I said then it would have been 20 seconds of footage of two blokes in a park playing with a happy kid and done very tastefully. The kids would have realised that families are all different and that would have been that. Likewise I am sure Safe Schools would have been done very carefully and the kids would have taken it in their stride, maybe even learning not to call things they disapprove of ‘gay’. I have always hated that one!
    This decision by our government is cringeworthy and spineless. One minute we are being told it is our right to be bigots and now the bullies on the back bench and the school ground have been given the nod as well.
    I am sorry your school days were such misery Mike, I so hope you are having an awesome life full of love and happiness now. And if your cooking is that bad there is a seat at our table any time, I do a mean coconut milk curry.

    • lol, thanks Mark. My cooking is okay. I’ve not poisoned anyone in ages 🙂 Thank you for your comment on my blog. I appreciate you taking the time to read it. It turned out longer – but better – than I expected it to.

  24. Gillian Fraser says

    Hi Mike,
    What a wonderfully articulate man you are! I am a 57 year old mother of 6, grandmother of 9. I too am furious with this government, please know they do not reflect the opinions of all. I am also extremely embarrassed as part of their generation that they talk out of fear or to create fear. Some days I feel like we are heading back to the 50’s. I will reshare this over and over! Blessings to you.

    • Thank you Gillian. I know there government is in the minority here – strange, but true – and there are so many people in this country who are just shaking their heads and waiting for election day.

  25. Dear Mike,
    Writing and sharing this has been a gift to us all.
    I sincerely hope Malcolm Turnbull gets to read it.
    I’ve shared it on Twitter @roshart and on my Facebook page.
    You write beautifully.
    Thank you. Thank you.

    • Thank you so much Ros. I really appreciate the shares across social media. I’ve never had that happen before. And thank you for your compliment on my writing, I truly appreciate that.

    • Mike – thank you, thank you, thank you.

      Thank you for not going to bed and inventing new swearwords.

      Thank you for carefully and patiently spelling out the story of the Malcolm/Tony switch and the way so many of us in the Centre and Left have experienced the ride. There begins to be some clearer writing on the wall regarding the choice of the next government. A sneaking, hopeful and perhaps naive part of me thinks that without the barefaced lies of Abbott’s lunge for power less of the Australian electorate will be taken in.

      Lastly thank you for sharing your story which so clearly makes the point of the Safe Schools program and so clearly exposes the mindlessness of the LNP handling of the issue

      • Hi David, thank you for your comment and for taking the time to read my blog. I agree, the Centre and Left have not been experiencing the Abbott/Turnbull ride the same as others. I hope the electorate votes on policy, not personality, this time around.

  26. John Thomas says

    Hi Mike,
    Your story resonates on so many levels. I am not gay, but experienced really similar experiences for being a wog, a dirty greasy foreigner (assiduously ascribed as it seems, because my mum was Greek).

    The humiliation and shame came, and I would pretend my mother was a stranger when she picked me up so no other kids would see me with associated with ‘those wogs’. My mother who along with my Aussie dad busted themselves and wore themselves out to raise me and my brothers. Unfortunately, I learned to fight, and I learned to react – often violently against my protagonists. But beating another human up in a fit of self righteous vengeance only created more conflict within – so responding with violence was not the answer either, at least not for me.

    Powerful story, thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks John. I never learnt to fight, not until years later. I’ve never fought physically, but my level of aggression continued to rise and impact my life. Whenever I felt I was being “bullied’ as an adult I used my strongest gift, my words to tear people down without a thought. It’s cost me jobs, relationships, friendships. It took years to get that under control, to realise that not everyone out there was trying to tear you down or belittle you. Therapy help with that. I’ve never understood the need to bully. Vulnerable kids, be them LGBT, or a different nationality, colour or simply just different from the pack mentality need to be protected. Thanks for taking the time to read my letter and to send me a comment Josh. I really appreciate it.

  27. Hi Mike
    I have 3 relatives who are gay and I was so upset about the Safe Schools program that I started to write a letter to Malcolm Turnbull last night, but like you, I feared that it would be too abusive so decided to wait until today. Your letter says all that I wanted to say and more. Thank you for your courage and honesty. I hope that the prime minister reads your letter, but I fear that he will remain untouched by it. When will homophobic people understand that homosexuality is just one of the several types of sexuality that people are born with? It’s normal; not the mean average of human experience, but definitely a normal part of the continuum of human experience.
    Thanks again for expressing so clearly what millions of us want to say.

    • Thank you so much Robyn, that means a lot to me. I’m glad you felt the words expressed resonated with what you wanted to say yourself.I hope your relatives know how loved they are 🙂

  28. Trudy says

    Thankyou Mike. Your story has much in common with mine and many others of course. As a grown up i have become a counsellor to support the healing process which includes working politically to save and expand Safe Schools. May justice prevail in time.

  29. Jan says

    Dear Mike, thankyou for writing such a thoughtful & honest letter – it sums up how so many of us are feeling at the moment. I work with young people and I want to weep as I see their despair trying to endure the bullying that now is possible 24/7 thanks to social media.
    How many more beautiful, wonderful, bright young lives have to be lost because of the bigotry and narrow mindedness of uneducated old fools?
    thankyou xx

    • Hi Jan, thank you for replying and leaving a comment. Social media can be a tool of great learning, but it can also be a haven for all those who can no longer harass in the daylight.

  30. Oh Mike – as a teacher, as a human being, your story broke my heart. I’m really concerned that they’re cutting the program from Primary schools – I’ve heard homophobic slurs from five year olds – they hear it at home and from older kids. How anyone could read this and not see clearly that the program is need is beyond me. Know schools that will tackle this head on, but I’m aware of many that continue to develop homophobes.

    • Thank you for your comment Riseanne. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. My tormentor was the older brother of a classmate, children in primary school have siblings, older ones that know a lot more of the world than the politicians in the back bench understand or a willing to admit to. Just because a middle-aged white senator or back bencher thinks this in the 1950s doesn’t make it so.

  31. It’s a shame that your school life still haunts you. I had to deal with every bit of bullying that you described in your letter. It was painful for me to read, because it brought back memories that I had long since repressed. I shut down that chapter of my life as though it never happened, once it was over. Completely hit the reboot button because I couldn’t deal with and hang on to the past pain. And it was a good thing to do, life was great for many years. Now that i’m in my later thirties, life seems to be blowing up in my face, and I think a lot of it has, subconsciously, been influenced by my childhood and the bullying that I received at schools that really had no idea how to combat it. Schools are very different now than they were back then and teachers take an active role in preventing bullying. I disagree with your comment that students have it harder now, I think if i was growing up in the school system today I would be a lot less tormented by others. Religion vindicates bullying, especially against LGBT people, and I think it has less power and influence now with social media and global communication. It has been given a wake up call, and while it’s true people can be bullied via social media, for each bully there are a thousand sites, groups, threads and areas where bullied students can visit where they will not feel as isolated as we did growing up. They can read others stories and life experiences. They know it’s okay to be LGBT and that there are others out there (I was told in school that the gay community made up 0.1% of the population and that the 10% that people were throwing around was a highly inflated figure… this made me feel like I was the only gay person in the entire school and everyone else must have been straight). There was no internet to tell me otherwise. I think Safe Schools would have been a great idea 20 years ago, and it is arriving in an age which has less need for it. There are the Cory Bernadis of the world and I wonder where they get off, but they grew up in the old school system where systematic bullying was tolerated. They are significantly less tolerated now, as evidenced by his office being trashed. He said it was cowardly and showed a lack of tolerance, but I think it was more a case of people calling him out as an arsehole; an arsehole and a bully who will not be given the same level of respect today as he would have 20 years ago.

    • You could easily be right, but I think social media gives people the opportunity to invade the safe havens. I do agree though that I wish I had had access to the internet when I was younger. It would have made me feel a lot less alone. I think children today are much more educated and open minded than they were in my day, and that’s a good thing. However bullying is still a problem, and one that costs children their lives. I spent a long time dealing with the darkness I brought with me as I got older, and there are days when I still feel weak and small. The self destruction in my world hit around my 30th birthday and lasted for quite some time. I blew up jobs, friendships and relationships. All of it as I reacted to feelings of worthlessness, emptiness and self hatred. Thank you for reading my post and for commenting. I really appreciate it.

  32. Mary Cameron says

    This is an intriguing letter, Mike. I was bullied severely at school, and my mother just told me to quit crying and promised me it would get better. It got better when I got the social skills to start defending myself. As well, I was smart. I learned that people do things in groups that they would never do as individuals. I also note you are tall. I believe that principal gave you good advice (although giving you license to hit or punch and have them look the other way is wrong imho), which you ignored. You are 6 feet tall, so you would have outsized even the biggest lads. Other people are not responsible for your life. You are. I was punched, bruised and beaten up by a drugged out gay guy who has much the same outlook on life (hyper emotional, angry and blames everyone but himself). If my husband had not been there, he would have done more damage to me. The police did not press charges. He played the gay card. Bullying works both ways, and you are entitled to have a pity party, but not at the expense of the majority of kids who are far too young to be presented with the hotly contested ‘gender theory’. I wish you the very best.

    • Thank you for your comment Mary. If what you got from my post was that I still sit here, crying into my evening Milo than either I didn’t write it well, something I doubt given the feedback I’ve read here and elsewhere, or you failed to understand my point. I’m glad for you that your Mothers advice worked. Very much so. I have never blamed others for my life, nor how it has turned out. My own post mentions that I was broken, no longer with belief in myself. I’m glad you never experienced that. And my post never once mentions ‘gender theory’. It was my story, of my experiences. I have, over the years, build an amazing life for myself. One I am exceptionally proud of. This post wasn’t about that though, it was about the impacts of 13 years of constant bullying and harassment and what that does to a persons sense of self. My story was about homophobia, I can’t water that down for you. However, my point was – and I say this several times in the post – that all vulnerable children need to be protected. Will I reference from my own experience, of course I will. It is my view. But all children, regardless of whether they are LGBT, or immigrants, or fat, or have red hair, or have freckles, or just have a group of kids hate them for no reason, should be protected.

      • Ronda bagatella says

        I read your heart wrenching story last night and like yourself tried to sleep on it before I replied. Your story is so sad and has left you so bitter. I am so sorry for this. I was born in 1953 to loving migrant parents and went through a catholic school system that was still very Anglo Saxon. My surname was a burden as was the Italian bread sandwiches. I was very thin and awkward with dark frizzy hair and I was so uncoordinated that sports day was a day I dreaded! I always hated school. I left at 15. I became a hairdresser and for me it was my transformation. I loved it.
        I learned to get on with life and my only regret at my age is that I didn’t stay on at school and go to university to say I had a degree! In those days it was assumed that women were to marry young and have children, which I did. To this day I am still married and my greatest achievement is my two children. I am now blessed with grandchildren.
        This is where I disagree with your push for Safe schools programme. I feel that showing sex toys or wrapping genitalia or transgender dressing is not what I want for my beautiful young grandkids. They are innocents that need to be nurtured throughout their school years. The schools of today are very aware of bullying and at my granddaughters Catholic school I remember the programme that senior girls took on the task of mentoring the young kinder children so they had someone to go to if they were distressed in any way. It was a wonderful introduction to school. Something I wish would have been there for me! Her school is very focused on kindness and love to everyone. I am sure this is happening everywhere today.
        I do not want to be seen as “homophobic” because I disagree with your letter. I feel because of social media you are able to use bullying tactics with words to try to beat the Prime Minister down. You make me feel bad to voice an opinion because I am not gay.
        I think bullying in schools is not just aimed at gay or transgender or lesbian kids. It was immigrants or kids with glasses or slow learners or skinny or fat kids etc etc etc. it was just the way the system worked then. I think the watered down version of the safe schools programme is a good starting point.
        Now we are all focused on looking after our children at school and at home.

      • Hi Rhonda, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I’m not particularly sure where you get that I have been left bitter. My life today is wonderful. I’ve got a great career, fantastic family & friends and have never been happier. Bullying doesn’t always result in people being bitter. I made a distinct effort in my piece to ensure those who read it, and to be fair I expected probably 10 people to read it, to understand the sorts of issues faced by LGBT students in school. I was in no way dismissive of other forms of bullying but the story I told was mine. I can speak only from my own experiences. I wasn’t bullied for being the child of an immigrant, nor was I bullied for being too thin or having bushy hair. I was targeted because I was perceived to be gay, long before I knew what the word even meant. In my Primary school, way back when, we also had a mentor programme so that younger kids had an older student they could go to if they had problems although it was introduced when I was in Year 6, so too late for me to benefit from. Times change though and the younger generation are much more aware, both socially and politically than our generations were. I find it strange that simply telling my story is being viewed as bullying. I have an opinion – like you – and I’m able to express it. I think the number of teen suicides puts paid to the idea that every school in the country is focused on kindness and love, but what a wonderful country we would have if that were true. I note you bring up the sex toys and genital wrapping. Before I wrote this post I read the information I could find about Safe Schools, and as I have said to others who have brought that up, I’ve seen no reference to genital binding or sex toys. I am always happy to adjust my letter, an offer made to several people already, if anyone can provide me with the Safe Schools section that deals with those topics. I agree that young children are not the right audience for that sort of education. Unfortunately, behind MSM news coverage and clips from ACA no one has been able to provide with anything from Safe Schools to back that assertion up. My post, and the spirit in which it was written was to raise awareness that bullying is not a small problem. If anyone who comments here spends a few minutes reading the stories that have been shared in the comments section, you can see that systemic bullying can take years and a lot of work to recover from. I am really glad you were able to leave school and find a place where you felt you belonged. It’s an amazing feeling isn’t it? I had the same experienced after I walked out of school half way through year 11. And no, I don’t think you’re homophobic because you disagree with my letter. Disagreement is fine, and it happens everywhere. I’m always happy to be disagreed with, not abused obviously, but disagreements are fine. The world would be totally boring if we all thought the same or had the same experiences. Anyway, thanks again for taking the time to read the piece and for commenting. If you can direct me to the literature from Safe Schools that details the genital binding or the use of sex toys that would be great.

  33. Mike, your story is a powerful and poignant example of why we need the Safe Schools initiative. Thank you for writing so honestly and eloquently of your experiences. I found your words harrowing and difficult but incredibly important to read. I see by the comments that many others have experienced similar bullying and hateful behaviours; the scars left are there for a lifetime. While it is too much to hope that your clear and deeply moving articulation of the issues will pierce the cold hearts of those currently in power, the reality is that the majority of Australians are good folk who when they are educated and see reason, vote wisely. Your letter will be disseminated widely and add to the education of ordinary Australians. They will be moved to identify who, of all the candidates in their electorate, truly have the well-being of children and all people at heart for the next voting round. All the very best to you and thank you for this letter.

  34. Denice Hamid says

    Mike, thank you for your brilliantly written, harrowing, sad story of your schooling experience.
    Vulnerable children are, long, the victims of peverted adults and bigoted children. Whatever the method, abuse is abuse, is abuse. The perpetrators might forget as they age, but the children suffer endlessly. You have given bullied, abused children a voice, calm and considered. I hope many hear it and gain some understanding and compassion for the suffering.
    Malcolm Turnbull is the latest victim of bullies, exposing his weak, vulnerable side. I wondered, how much of bringing him down is payback and when I saw Tony Abbott sign on, it confirmed my belief. Schoolyard bullies: backbench
    bullies. Nothing changed!
    Thank you, Mike! I will repost your letter, with your permission.

    • Hello Denice, thank you commenting. I agree the back bench does seem reminiscent of a bunch of high school bullies. Feel free to repost the blog. I’m more than happy for it to be read.

  35. Andrew says

    Mike, thank you for writing your story. It’s not an easy thing to do, I know because I’ve shared your experience myself. It happened to me. You have inspired me to action, we will not let this rest and go unnoticed. Safe schools was a shining light that has been extinguished by bullies.

    • Hi Andrew, I’m glad the post resonated with you and that it has inspired you to push for Safe Schools to be reinstated. You’re right, it was a shining light extinguished by bullies, also by fear and the ridiculous belief that sexuality can be altered.

  36. Charly mackinnon says

    Hi Mike, I read your letter with a very heavy heart. It’s really painful to read a story like this and realise that the pain we went through as young people isn’t just “my” story.
    I’m 54yrs old and had my schooling in the sixties and seventies, my mum was a teacher at my primary school and I wore glasses that was enough to be a target.
    I was regularly called a “poofter” and a “fag” by the bully boys and girls in my school and so strove to “prove” my manliness as much as possible. Over my life I have worked as a farm hand, truck driver and drove forklifts in warehouses. I did army reserves so I could become a “trained killer”.
    I have been married twice and have two grown daughters and two grand daughters, at the age of 51 I had time to reflect on my life and take a long hard look at why I have always felt “wrong” about myself. It felt strange that I had never been able to really associate with other males and at times I would sit there and think to myself “what the F**K are these idiots saying?” I could never seem to connect with the male perspective. I am transgender.
    I have had a life of undiagnosed depression and anxiety which escalated when I realised I had been living a lie for fifty years.
    Upon seeing that the Liberal government had decided to butcher the safe schools program I was extremely disappointed, had this sort of program been in place when I was at school I may have had the opportunity to start my transition before I started a life of confusion, not to mention being able to avoid the psychological torment at the hands of bullies who didn’t care who they hurt for their own entertainment.
    Its unfortunate that spineless people get to decide what’s good for the population based upon their popularity within their own group of “mates”. I thought Government was for the good of the people not the few.
    Perhaps its time the people ruled the government and not vice versa.

    Charly.

    • Hi Charly, thank you for posting & for sharing your story. You’re so right about the importance of having the tools at hand when you’re younger. I think it would go a long way towards removing the sense of isolation people suffer and carry into their adult lives. I wish you the best of luck in the years to come.

  37. This is so important – it better get to the PM’s damn phone! Down with activist backbenchers who don’t reflect what the majority of voting age Australia wants, and expects of our society. Good on you for writing it, mate, and for everything else you’ve done/survived until this point!

    • Thanks very much Vivdhunter. If this does get to Turnbull’s phone, I hope he reads it in the spirit with which is was written and not as a personal attack. That wasn’t my intention at all.

  38. Annette says

    Thankyou Mike for this letter, it was moving to say the least, you’re a courageous human being.

    I haven’t read all the comments, so sorry if this is repeated previously. The part of your letter where you wrote you could not feel sad for that tormentor’s suicide, well I would probably have felt similarly. However, thinking about the repression of LGBT, I understand some people cannot allow themselves consciously to be “different” & a hatred may be projected outside of themselves. I hope this makes some sense, I think it is relevant in the context for which you write, another reason for education and acceptance of ourselves, all of us.

    P.S I am not saying you should feel sad for that person.

    • Hi Annette, no one has picked that up yet. I agree with you. I have often looked back over those years and wondered if he was struggling the same way, and with the same thing, I was. It’s one of the reasons I wrote “I couldn’t feel sad for that”. It should have left me sad, regardless. He was a human being who was obviously tortured himself by something. He wouldn’t have ended his own life if he wasn’t. But I just couldn’t feel anything for it. I have hoped in the past that he has found peace wherever he now is. I do think sometimes about what drove him to it, drove him to the violence and the suicide. I wonder too if he might have benefited from having someone to talk to. Funnily enough, I probably would have listened. Strange I guess. Thank you for reading this and taking the time to comment though. I really do appreciate it.

  39. Anne says

    Thank you for sharing your story. Hopefully one day no child will be made to go through this sort of treatment.

    • Hi Anne, I couldn’t agree more. Hopefully if not the original Safe Schools then a more inclusive anti-bullying programme can be introduced to stop this once and for all. Teaching respect, and the value of others is paramount in bringing this to an end.

  40. Reblogged this on Lindathestar and commented:
    An eloquent and powerful account of why a systemic change to the school system is needed, and the importance of #safeschools in making that happen.

  41. Hi Mike, after reading your candid, eloquent, emotionally-raw and flawlessly written open letter/essay to our ‘bullied’ Prime Minister, this is one treatise that all Australians and also all victims, survivors and reformers of schoolyard bullying should read. It accounts to the scrouge of educational institutions who did nothing to protect, defend and shied school-aged students who identified as LGBTI.

    As some commentators in the comments section of this letter/essay have stated, times have changed since the nineteen-seventies but the lessons of our forefathers dissent any idea or notion that LGBTI school-aged students have a torment-free experience at primary school or at high school. While my lived experiences as a bullied child/adolescent was somewhat less horrific as it was for you, if the Safe Schools Coalition existed around that period of my schooling I would have adapted more confidently and energetically against those who bullied me because of my disability and my sexual orientation.

    What Bernardi and Christensen have succeeded in rescinding and defunding the national Safe Schools Coalition Australia (SSCA) initiative/program is showing that the Liberal Nationals Coalition government is in crisis and very dysfunction/unstable to reign in. If Turnbull reads this remarkable letter, maybe he may reconsider his approach of appeasing right-wing conservative backbenchers and reinstate SSCA to its entirety.

    I too wrote a lengthy but shorter open letter to Turnbull and the Federal Minister of Education himself, Simon Birmingham about my democratically-entitled opinion of this valuable LGBTI anti-bullying teaching and training resource being “gutted.”

    It might not be as empowering and meticulously expressed, but as a young thirty year old gay, autistic man I had to speak out and inflict my displeasure at Turnbull and Birmingham doing a disservice to thousands of school-aged LGBTI students:

    http://jaradmcloughlin.blogspot.com.au/2016/03/happy-belated-2016-open-letter-to-prime.html

    • Hi Jarad, thanks for taking the time to comment. You’re right in that the Turnbull Government appears to be as lost as the previous Abbott Government was. I’d suggest that has to do with whoever is pulling the strings behind the scenes. There are a lot of Far-Right Wing people in that party. I’m sorry you experienced bullying but I’m glad to see, well read, that you’re making a great life for yourself now.

      • Thanks for your appraisal Mike. I’m not always well versed in defending and advocating for social and political equality for LGBTIQ and disabled Australians. Both of the special schools I went to, I found most of the teachers disliked me for no reason. Even today I have no explanation at why they treated me so badly compared to other students. Through my blog and other online media platforms, I will try and educate those about who I’m really am and who I’m not perceived as.

  42. I felt sickened by the govt announcement to “gut” the program as Christensen referred to the decision.How unintelligent they think children are in this day and age that they have to be spoon fed with information.Children are already far more adept at finding information for themselves on line than many adults yet this stupid decision now makes the information they need, appear to be wrong instead of having links from approved sites! Children know from an early age if they are ” different” and a program that helps them find out they are not alone but that every individual is unique and special is so important in their development. Instead of learning to celebrate diversity the gutting of this program once again puts some children into the them and us. The children who grow up in homophobic/elitist households where they learn it is ok to abuse and marginalise those who appear different will be the ones whose parents prevent them from undertaking the Safe Schools program…resulting in more bullies being fostered. It was a disgusting debate from the conservatives aiming to claw back the program so just imagine what the debate will be leading up to a plebiscite. Turnbull has lost every last bit of respect I ever had for him. Thank you so much Mike, for your letter on behalf of all those kids out there who need champions like you.

    • Hi Cowper, thank you for reading the post and for commenting I really appreciate it. If it can reach one child that needs it, be they bully or victim, and change the way they think or themselves it will have been worth it. Christensen is a lost cause. The man is more obsessed with gay sex than I am and I’m gay.

  43. fortaypete says

    A very important piece of writing here Mike, thank you. You have encapsulated so well why the Safe Schools program is do important & why it is such a travisty to take away it’s funding. Such cowardice & shortsightedness by the politicians responsible. Daniel Andrews in Victoria has promised to keep the Safe Achools program going here in Victoria. I hope that is the case. You are a courageous huma being.

    • Hi fortaypete, courageous, I’m not sure about that. Fed up with politicians lying through their teeth and using children’s safety as a political football. Absolutely. I’ve read that Daniel Andrews will be funding it in Victoria which is excellent. I’ve also read the ACT Legislature will be keeping it in ACT schools which is also a great step. Now for the rest of the states to follow suit.

      • I’m thrilled at Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr (who is also proudly and openly gay) in their defiance with continuing to fund the Safe Schools Coalition initiative/program and distributing those resources to all state based primary and secondary schools within that state/territory. I hope that SA Premier Jay Weatherill, who too supports this initiative will go against the piss-weak grind of the federal LNP and its spineless PM.

  44. you are amazing for sharing your story.

    I’m sorry you had to endure so much torture, but maybe this may open the eyes of those who never experienced bullying.

    I too was bullied and at the time I never knew why. By the time I was nine, I found myself on the cliffs in England, willing myself to jump and end the pain. At ten I was beaten to a bloody pulp by more than twelve of my class, still with no concept as to why.
    As with you, my bullying continued in Australia, but now it was also because i was english and spoke funny. It went on until at age 15 I had had enough and threw my bully through the glass in the classroom, where I promptly broke down.

    Finally in 2010, I accepted who and what I was and transitioned to become the female I always believed I should have been. It only took 40 years.
    The amount of transgender publicity has made it, easier for people to understand and accept that different is OK and not to be feared.

    As such the Safe Schools, plays a vital role in educating young people that its OK and they dont need to bully us anymore. It is fantastic that the ACT and Victoria will continue to support this valuable resource in its entirety.

    I am so proud of your strength and perseverance

    • Alice, what an amazing story. Congratulations on your transition. I can’t imagine what you went through. I wish I’d had the courage to throw one of my bullies through a window, but I probably wouldn’t have been able to lift them lol. I totally agree that it is fantastic to see VIC and ACT take up the cause to ensure children are safe in schools. I wish the other states would follow suit. Thank you so much for reading my blog and sharing your story with me. I hope you have a great life ahead of you, with much love and joy.

  45. Reblogged on wordpress.cairnscommunications.com (My first ever reblog, because I think this is so important).

    Bravo for your bravery, and kudos for your eloquence.

    Like you, I was prepared for only the second time in my life to vote Liberal, after Turnbull’s elevation to the leadership.

    But not now – and not ever again.

  46. Bernie Cummins says

    Hi Mike, please practice the tolerance and fair mindedness which all of us preach, but do not always practice. The opposition to Safe Schools was not homophobic or right wing prejudice, but in response to parental concern of treating primary school children as being sexually aware and encouraging them to explore their sexuality. Please leave these kids alone there is already too much out there sexualising our kids and brushing aside the legitimate parental concerns which has led to government action. Also a lot of parents believe they should have the primary role in talking to their primary school kids about sexuality. No-body at all is against simple plain anti-bullying programs. But Safe Schools appeared to have an additional agenda unnecessarily when there any many good anti-bullying programs running well in many primary schools. Its laughable to call these parental concerns homophobic and even more so if you call me homophobic as someone who has politically campaigned for and supported equal civil rights for gays since the 1970s. Peace and love, Bernie.

  47. Trevor Magnusson says

    Seeing the likes of Cory Bernardi and George Christensen getting their way rankles something shocking. But I think they’ve been given a free kick, and it’s because of everyone like me in the centre. That is, the “largely” tolerant, diversity-embracing mainstream (and perhaps my perspective is atypical, but the attitudes I get from my children and their peers fill me with hope for the future – certainly a world away from the blinkered view of my school days).
    Let us consider the possibility that in one or two tiny parts, the authors of the Safe Schools program got a bit carried way. (Having downloaded and read some of the material, the only place I can think of is the bit where I am encouraged not to ask new parents if their child is a boy or a girl, p42 of the “All Of Us” resource).
    (a) Passionate progressives, seeing the overwhelming benefit, are unwilling to examine it critically.
    (b) The majority in the centre are either indifferent, or terrified of admitting in public that they have examined it critically.
    (c) The result: right-wing loonies get a free kick.

  48. Kristin Gillespie says

    Thanks Mike for your incredibly painful, personal, powerfully articulate letter. I hope he listens, but I think he’s got blinkers on – blinded by power at any price.

    Bullying does indeed have life-long effects on survivors, just as any form of abuse does – and more profound when it is ongoing. I am grateful you survived to share your story, and the gifts you so clearly have. You may be interested in a book on trauma which I read recently – The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk.

    As the parent of a trans teen who came out last year I know that Safe Schools Coalition is doing a wonderful job. They have worked with the high school – who were fantastic, and with my 7yo’s school so she is also supported. A little kid going to school and saying “my sister’s a boy” was inevitable, unless I scared her into silence which I refused to do – it is just plain wrong. A year on there have been relatively few minor incidents (words, though they hurt too) and promptly dealt with by the schools. I cannot begin to imagine what this journey would have been like without the Safe Schools Coalition to be honest.

    Kindest regards, Kristin

  49. john1902 says

    Thanks for sharing your story Mike.

    For some years now, I have undergone therapy in an effort to understand my own bullying. It really wasn’t my “fault”….

    For most of my school life I was bullied. I recall the very first time. My class mates and I were lined up, single file waiting to enter a public swimming complex when a boy behind me whispered in my ear that his “dad” said I was a pansy. I recall vividly that at first I thought that was a nice thing to be called …., that feeling quickly turned to dread and fear when I saw the disgust in the boy’s face as he shoved me out of the line, taunting me , telling his friends to keep away from me. I was 6 year old.

    From that moment, I was bullied and chased for much of my school life … Lucky for me, I could out run most of the boys. I ran and I ran fast because I knew, if they caught me I would be bashed and possibly to death. I was chased and stabbed with a syringe, I was chased out of a school dance ( witching 15 mins of arriving) in an area I didn’t even know, I hid in bushes whilst my “attackers” raced around in search of me, screaming that they were “going to kill me when they found me” … I stayed there for two hours in the freezing cold until I found the courage to leave. It took me over an hour of wandering around in dark and unfamiliar streets until I could find my way. My family excitedly asking if I had a good time, I was so ashamed, I didn’t tell anyone.

    Frankly, Turnbull and his band of merry men (and women) are no different to the boys who hid in the bathrooms …. Waiting for the opportunity to attack.

    My Children go to a school where there is zero tolerance to bullying. It’s simple, Bully and you will be automatics suspended. It’s a program that works. It teaches tolerance and respect, and immobilises bullies.

    Lastly, to the readers of Mikes letter, it’s one thing to leave a comment in reply to this letter.
    I explore everyone who has read the letter to repost it in their social media platform of choice.

    Turnbull will read it …. And he will hang his head in shame …. The shame will come from wondering exactly what his own children went through as the children of an Eastern suburbs, high flying, high profile politician. They would have endure their own form of hell without question. Ask Harriet Wran …

    Keep fighting the “good” fight Mike. Well done.

  50. Thank you for having the guts to write the letter you have. I feel so ashamed of the Federal Government’s decision – blood on their hands because they’ve sanctioned bullying at kids who are different, however that difference appears. I was in tears at the end of your post which is a first for me. Respect, mate, respect to you in truckloads (not just for writing but for surviving).

  51. Joe says

    Mike, this is an excellent piece. As an Australian gay man living abroad – around your age – I am appalled at this divisive and offensive Government (although not at all surprised at the failure that is Turnbull himself. I saw that one coming.).

    I take issue with your analysis, however, on one major point.

    You write to Turnbull that “…You have done nothing to turn the growing tide of hate that has infected us since September 2013”. I would argue, however, that the tide of hate has been growing since the Howard era. It was he and his Government who allowed Australians to say racist, homophobic things under the guise of “free speech” and an end to “political correctness”, from his very first days in office in 1996. It continued through the long years of his Government, and then in the refugee policies of the Labor Government afterwards. This is not some short-term evolution in hate speech; it’s a long two decade trudge through the anger and xenophobia that makes up much of the Australian electorate.

    There is a deep collective amnesia in Australia about its politics, its policies, and its place as a beacon of social and economic progress. There are many things that Australia does very well (Medicare, for example), but since the Whitlam years, there has been little major movement on truly progressive social legislation. Instead, elections are run on the fear of immigrants, tax increases, or interest rates. The sole exception to this was Howard’s gun legislation – but even that was 20 years ago. NDIS? Just catching up with the rest of the western world. HIV/AIDS policy? Maybe it once was, but it’s hardly cutting edge anymore. Drug policies on marijuana? Way behind the United States. Immigration policy? Awful. Marriage equality? Not yet, despite five prime ministers in five years; Australia is one of a few western democracies holding out. Education policy? That’d be safe schools, to which you can say goodbye.

    Australia suffers from a deeply disturbing political stasis. The two party system is corrupt, entrenched by undemocratic political parties and exacerbated electoral politics. Neither party has a base, and elections are decided by the small sliver of “independents” who make up a tiny portion of the electorate, and who have such limited ideological identification with the parties but are compelled to vote anyway.

    I have a few proscriptions for this, but the reality is that none will come to pass until one of the two major parties is burned to the ground, and a new one – right or left – comes along to shift the entire paradigm. Turnbull is a symptom, not a cause of this rut. The cause runs much, much deeper than he.

    • Hi Joe, thanks for reading my post and commenting. I acknowledge that under the Howard Government hate did begin to flourish, particularly in regards to Australia’s horrific asylum seeker policies. With regards to my post I was specifically focusing on the rise in LGBT hate, but I totally understand your point. I perhaps should have been a bit clearer.

  52. Marley rei says

    One of the reasons I’m studying to be a teacher. Fortunately, my primary and high school experiences were no where near as traumatic. By reading this, I’m as inspired as ever to create a safe learning space for my future students. Thank you for sharing your story with us ♡

    • Hi Marley, Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. With future teachers like yourself, focused on creating safe learning spaces, we can only hope future generations will be educated in better circumstances.

  53. Christine Phillips says

    Hard to know where to start or what to say, other than, like many of these posts, I too suffered at school, or in my case multiple schools in rural Victoria in the 1950s and 60s. Mostly at primary school, because by the time I reached high school I had developed some self preservation skills. We were children considered to be lower class because Our parents were share farmers and moved a lot, 5 primary schools. All of which I was bullied. I was also the fat girl with glasses. Was once dragged around the play ground with skipping rope around my neck. Not sure how I survived that, but my parents found out and the principle of the ‘one teacher school’ who should have been on duty quietly disappeared to be replaced by a wonderful teacher who turned the school into a wonderful place. Luckily we had strong loving parents who were fierce in the protection of their kids and fierce in the protection of anyone they knew of being bullied by anyone. By high school I had developed skills in protecting myself and fighting back verbally. Verbal abuse I handled easily by showing distain and a complete lack of concern. I also learned to quietly go about shielding others if I could, from abuse. Luckily at the last 2 high schools I attended, the principles were very ethical and strong and by the final years 11 -12 I chose not the join any cliques, to deal with everyone in the same reserved way, making it clear that I was my own person and didn’t need anyone’s approval. By that stage my verbal skills were such that few students would take me on. Like many kids who suffered abuse, the Library became my sanctuary and I went on to have a successful career as a Librarian (now retired)
    In raising my family and watching them as then went through school I hope I gave them confidence and instilled in them the need to be on the lookout for bullying, to stand up for themselves, never to be afraid to speak up, to look out for those whe suffered, never to be a perpetrator of such evil.

    At least one boy I went to school with, whom I am sure was gay, committed suicide. This was horrifying for me. So thank you. I too am horrified to hear that this program is to be modified at the behest of the right wing bigots and racists in the LNP. And is to be defunded. I have never voted Liberal, always Labor, but did vote Greens at the last election, so angry was I at the bullying of Julia Gillard. But the Greens are no longer an option and it is back to Labor for me. Bill Shorten has grown into the leadership and I believe he will, if given the chance, fund this and I hope reinstate funding to public education and other areas of public good.

    Once again, thank you for your willingness to tell your story. I am sure it will give strength and comfort to others who have suffered as you have.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting Christine, and thank you for sharing your story with me. I really appreciate it.

  54. Tracy says

    Mike I too was bullied at a Catholic school, although nothing like what you endured. However it took me years to recover emotionally. I am so glad you survived to write this eloquent letter which expresses the bitter disappointment I also feel toward a PM who showed so much hope on so many levels.

    The question that keeps reoccurring for me is “Do these rednecks not understand this could be their kid?” Apparently not. Apparently they think LGBTI issues are something you “catch” or “choose”.

    The irony is that the most perverted sexual abuse of children occurred in Christian schools and was covered up. These so-called-Christians don’t exactly have a great record at protecting children and should leave it to others more qualified.

    • Hi Tracy, thank you for reading my post and commenting. I’m sorry that bullying took such a toll on you. I know from my own experiences I’m still hyper-sensative to what I perceive as bullying, it’s something I’m still working on. The confusion of sex and sexuality is a major player for people going after Safe Schools. That they’re two different things doesn’t seem to be noticed.

  55. ROBERT FORSYTHE says

    Mike, this is the same the world over. I grew up in Ireland and there were kids who copped this. Looking back I feel so ashamed. Young men get into a pack mentality and at times I participated in the taunting. If there had been a circuit breaker like safe schools to talk about these things it may have reduced it. I just hope life turned out OK for the victims of our horrid behaviour.

    • Hi Robert, thank you for reading my post and taking the time to comment. The pack mentality was one I was trying to address in the post and I’m grateful that you took the time to bring it up in a comment. If the people I know are anything to go by, those kids will have their sunshine. Peer pressure, self protection, not wanting to stand out, I completely understand how the pack develops. It’s the way of life. It can be very hard to against the grain, particularly in high school.

  56. Licy says

    I was out of the loop for the weekend with no Internet access, so missed this devastating news. As the mother of a (luckily) well adjusted gay son, who is now in his 20s, I shudder to think what life would have been like for him with other classmates and teachers. Safe schools are vital for the well being of our young people. My son was attacked by some young guys when he was about 14, luckily he wasn’t physically hurt thanks to his friends with him, but just to see him go to school the next day – a casual day, where he would normally have worn his skinny black jeans, gelled his hair up and looked a little alternative – wearing nondescript old jeans and shirt so he wouldn’t stand out and be targeted again by that little thug and his mates — it was devastating. And this was a school where the staff took an interest, where he had a group of supportive friends that he is still in touch with all these years later. How could he have coped had he not had that?

    Thank you for sharing your story

    • Hi Licy, I’m sorry to hear your son experienced that in school, but I am really glad he has come out the other side well adjusted and happy. Success really is the best revenge as they say. Thank you for reading my post and taking the time to comment, I really appreciate it.

  57. Dianne Shaw says

    Bullying comes in many forms, I grew up in an rural region within a family where domestic violence was a daily occurrence. At home I was physically, mentally, emotionally, verbally and sexually abused.

    Whilst at school I tried to fit in with the other kids and to a point I did during my years in Primary school, but once I began High school the social segregation began and the snide remarks from the “popular kids” in the corridors became a constant part of my daily school routine.

    I suffered an illness at age fourteen which saw me hospitalised and bedridden at home for much of the year which was a huge setback in my education. The following year there was a family violence incident that made the front page of our local newspaper, which then escalated the type of remarks that I endured from my peers.

    My home life was a daily struggle to stay alive and my school life was a lonely living hell, I couldn’t talk about it to anyone and none of the teachers approached me to ask if there was anything they could do to help apart from one teacher assisting me with math during lunch breaks in order for me to gain a pass in year ten, so a huge thank you to Mr Collins for that.
    I left school at the end of that year, left home and began full timework and finally began to live, however I did learn that there are still bullies out there in the world beyond school and we need to have the courage to make a stand against these bullies, which leads me to the point of my story “Safe school programs need to be supported so that those who are being bullied are taught ways in which to deal with this issue and those who are the bullies are being held accountable for their actions”.

    Thankfully I can proudly say, that I survived my life, did some intense counselling with an amazing counsellor, thank you Sarah Calleja, raised three children and went back to school to get Diplomas and then continued onto University as a mature age student to get a Bachelor degree and am mid way through an Honours degree as well as working full time as a Residential Youth Care Worker.

  58. Lee Tate says

    Thank you for sharing and I have shared on FB also. I felt so much of what you wrote, as it mimicked my schooling experience and I was so pleased for the younger generation, with their safe schools program. Just devastated for them when I heard it will be shelved.

  59. Charlie Greene says

    I wonder if, like me, Mr Turnbull will stop reading when he gets to the bit about Ricky Muir getting more votes than Michaelia Cash. What a blatant and deliberate misrepresentation of the results designed to mislead. After that disappointing and irrelevant point, I didn’t really care what you said so I stopped reading.

    • Hi Charlie, thanks for reading even if you didn’t get all the way through it, and stopped at the section mentioning Michaela Cash. Based on research I was talking about the number of primary votes the candidates received, but I guess I didn’t make that clear. While I may be wrong – and it wouldn’t be the first time – I’m fairly certain I read the statistics on primary vote correctly. Either way, thanks for commenting.

      • roma guerin says

        Mike, your research was correct. I have the list of primary votes in 2013 Senate and can vouch for this. In fact Michaelia was one of three who got into the Senate with less primary votes than Ricky Muir, another Lib and one Lab. Sorry, off-topic, lol.

      • lol, not off topic – well only slightly – at all. It never hurts to have someone who is independent clarify something like this. While I did a bit of research on it, it wasn’t outside the scope of reality that I’d misread the information. Thanks for providing some clarity there Roma.

  60. I am so sorry you had to endure so much pain and violence.
    Reblogged on Polyfeministix and posted as a guest blog on AIMN and subscribed to your blog. Facebooked and Shared, Tweeted and sent to others I think may repost and share who are influential with many followers. This is an exceptional piece. Extremely powerful. I was in tears reading this. This needs to have as big of a reach as we all can collectively get. This should be read to the PM in Parliament and pushed to have a formal response from the Prime Minister.
    I too was a teenager in the 80s. If there were any LGBTI kids at my public school, it was only assumption. No one would ever have come out and said anything. I do understand from my own kids how things have progressed in some ways, but we simply must stamp out the stigma, bullying and violence. I completed research on marriage equality for my own blog a while ago and the journals I read regarding the consequences for LGBTI regional and rural youth, will stay with me forever as well. I am from regional QLD, so I am very passionate about how rural and regional living does affect anyone who is LGBTI, as most of my friends moved away to Brisbane or Sydney and didn’t stay here, as they were more accepted down south.
    When I was 17 in 1987, a boy from my school with another boy a grade below, stalked a young man on the way home and murdered him in a very vicious way, on suspicion he was gay. The victim was Dean Paul Meredith, he was 19. That will stick with me for the rest of my life. The safe schools program if effective should prevent that world. I am so angry about the recent decisions to defund it.
    Congratulations on a fine piece of work.

  61. Mike this has been re-posted on [url=http://theaimn.com/open-letter-prime-minister-australia/] Australia Independent Media Network{url] I have ask [url=https://independentaustralia.net/] Independent Australia to post it as well. They will get in contact with you to get your permission to post it.I have also reposted on [url=http://aussies-downunder.boards.net/]my forum[/url]

  62. Kalina Pyra says

    Sharing everywhere I possibly can. Two of my close friends have transgender children and I know the struggles these brave and beautiful kids have faced. The news about Safe Schools is devastating.

  63. Kathy Humphrey says

    Whar a wonderful letter. Malcolm has betrayed us and himself. Shame on him.

    • Thank you Kathy for taking the time to read the blog, and also for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate it.

  64. What a moving and powerful piece of writing – thank you for telling your story. I will link on FB and re-blog.
    How interesting (if that is the correct word) that the boy who bullied you, who put your hand down his trousers, himself committed suicide a few years later. What private demons was he dealing with? This is not an appeal for sympathy for him – he was responsible for his own behaviour. His behaviour was a product of his belief system, and both were clearly deeply flawed. But I just can’t help wondering if those boys and men who condemn homosexuality the loudest and most brutally are also the most confused about their own sexuality. And if they are that conflicted about their sexuality then don’t they also stand to benefit the most from a program like Safe Schools, which has the potential to send a very clear message about what Australian society considers fair and decent behaviour towards those who are ‘different’ in any way.
    Having just read Nikki Savva’s book ‘The Road to Ruin’, about Tony Abbott’s demise, it is clear that one of the factors in his loss of traction was his utterly bloody-minded refusal to move with the times, to read the mood of the electorate on these fundamental human rights issues. And the warning to Malcolm Turnbull should be that when political leaders get out of step with the opinions of the broader electorate, when what they say is not matched by what they do, when they continually disappoint peoples’ expectations, they cannot expect to be forgiven at the polls by any amount of fiscal responsibility.

    • Hi Deb, thank you for your comment and for taking the time to read my blog. I often think of him now, with the benefit of age and hindsight, and wonder what demons he was struggling with. I also often wonder what would have – or could have – happened if I’d reach out to him instead of fearing him. I’ll never know what is demons were but age brings a definite mellowing I guess. Wherever he may be now, I hope he’s found his peace.

  65. Alice says

    This program is not about anti bullying and protecting children from discrimination, it crosses the line and should not be in our schools. We should not be teaching vulnerable children about changing their gender and stopping puberty, Adolescence is confusing enough already. As I fully expect somebody to come along and start calling me names because they disagree with me, please don’t bother because that is bullying and exactly what is at the heart of this issue. Which I must say needs to be addressed. But not like this.

    • Hi Alice, thanks for taking the time to raise your concerns and thank you for both commenting and reading the post. I absolutely agree with you that what is needed is a whole-of-school approach to target bullying, not just one focused on LGBT issues. I speak in this blog of LGBT bullying, because that is what my experience is. I wasn’t bullied for being fat, or having freckles, or even for being a dud on the football field – a major transgression at my school. I was bullied purely for something I was. I in no way suggested – at least I hope I didn’t – that other forms of bullying are less important. I simply spoke from my heart, about my life experience. I also do not agree with anyone making negative comments about your comment. This post – and this blog – is not the place for it. I am intrigued as to where you found the discussion points though of stopping puberty in the Same Schools information. I read as much as I could find before writing this post and didn’t come across anything that talked about children stopping puberty I mustn’t have been looking in the right place. If you could link that for me I’d be really grateful.

  66. Reblogged this on goodbettergreatdotcom and commented:
    Such a powerful piece of writing – I am really sad that the opportunity to change the way schools deal with difference has been watered down to such an extent. A missed opportunity for Australia.

  67. Goddessence says

    Hi Mike.
    Thank You!
    I was bullied at school, by both students and teachers, because of poverty, neglect and single parent family (1950s). I loved the prospect of attending school and education, but in childhood that love became the kind of sick fear you speak of. I was never allowed a day off, even if sick (school was my neglectful mother’s babysitter).

    I did a similar thing to you. Walked out! One morning I packed my few threadbare clothes into my battered school case and instead of stepping onto the school bus I took the one to town and handed myself over to the local child welfare office. I threatened I’d run away if they took me home so they put me in a Catholic home where I was abused by nuns. So I too had a childhood where I just couldn’t win.
    Eventually as an adult I completed my education and attained two degrees, but at great cost due to the deep trauma I still carry from childhood.
    I’ve worked in school as a teacher and had to walk away again because of the violence and bullying and no one – no one – paying much attention (other teachers and principal). I think they felt overwhelmed by the degree of schoolyard bullying and it was easier to ‘turn a blind eye’. Not for me though. I couldn’t stomach it and thus have been unemployed now for 5 years trying to come to terms with my ‘sensitivity’ to society’s insensitivity.
    We need programs like Safe Schools.
    I appreciate your honesty and bravery. Thanks for speaking up.

    • Thank you Goodessence, I agree with you, I think bullying is at such epidemic proportions that teachers just don’t know how to effectively stop it. It’s why Safe Schools is so important. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and for comment, I really appreciate it.

      • Goddessence says

        Thanks Mike. I appreciate your time and care in replying. Fare-thee-well

  68. There is not much more I can say at this point because anything else I would say would only be a repeat of the many comments above. I will say this however, when bullying and violence is not checked and dealt with at an early stage, we also end up with adults who continue to behave in this way within adult relationships and marriage, something which is now out of control and headlining under the “Domestic Violence” banner. Cory Bernardi and George Christensen … my, my, my what a double act those two are .. Malcolm Turnbull has shown himself to be nothing but weak. I applaud your open letter. I hope it gets to Malcolm Turnbull but sadly, at least while we have this government, the changes that have been made to this program in schools will stay. I note that Daniel Andrews, Victorian Premier, has stated that his state will continue as before and won’t be adopting the new program. I have read your bio and despite the sadness I feel for what you endured at school, you have certainly come a long way in life and you can be proud of your achievements. What a role model and caring human being you are. Thank you.

    • Thank you Minnie. I really appreciate your comment and the time it took you to read my blog. I have built a fantastic life for myself post-school. Ultimately you are in charge of how you react to those who would bring you down. It took me a while to figure that out, but once I did my life became amazing.

  69. Mel says

    Thank you Mike. I never experienced bullying myself but as a mum of two young kids it is one of my greatest fears, especially with the prevalence of social media. I only hope that I can instill some resilience in them as they grow as well as a respect for other humans.
    Thank you for sharing your story- I’m not ashamed to admit that it brought tears to my eyes. I fervently hope it is read by others and they have a similar reaction.

  70. Kathryn Sandercock says

    Mike Cullen – THANK YOU for this article. I am so touched by what you have written. My only son also struggled with bullying ( I won’t go into details but I still have shuddering memories), he was not gay but just a sensitive soul who endured what I called ‘push, poofter, put downs’ until he couldn’t take it any more and we moved him from a country school back to a city school where he found like minded kids and a school that valued and accepted individuality.
    I soooooo hope Malcolm reads your article.
    Thank you and kindest regard,
    Kathryn

    • Thank you Kathryn for both commenting and sharing your sons experience. It’s such an epidemic in Australian schools. I’m glad your son found a place where he was accepted for who he was.

  71. Brettray@me.com says

    Hi Mike,
    Thankyou so mucg for what you have written to Mr Turnbull. I had similar experiences when I was at school. The last few weeks as all the drama with The Safe Schools programme has unfolded, it has brought back so many memories. Not good ones.
    Best Regards,

    Brett

  72. anne carey says

    Thanks Mike for your powerful, truthful letter.
    Wanted to let you know as 2016 WA Australian of the Year I think your words are powerful, truthful. You are courageous and I believe the public needs to be aware of this.
    I am making a stand this year in regards to bullying:
    As 2016 WA Australian of the Year I am continuing a campaign to bring awareness to the problem of Workplace Bullying in the health care sector through public speaking, meeting with various groups that represent the employees (including unions) and speaking with politicians to bring awareness to the expense ($6-36 Billion a year) that is lost to the economy as a result of workplace bullying. (Productivity commission as presented to Australian House of Representatives standing committee on Education and Employment Inquiry into workplace bullying 2012).
    I will continue to meet with other victims of workplace bullying, so they can help inform my campaign and to help bring some of their stories into public view so people know the personal damage that is occurring.
    In doing so I hope to bring about change that is so needed within the health care sector so we can support nurses and in so doing make it a better place to work and bring about better care for patients.

    take care Mike
    Anne

    • Hi Anne, Congratulations on being named WA Australian of the Year, what a wonderful honour and a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness of workplace bullying. I applaud your stance. Bullying, sadly, is not left behind in the school yard but does continue into workplaces. Thank you for taking the time to both read and comment on my post. I really appreciate it.

  73. Ron Mahony says

    thank you Mike for sharing your letter.. says everything I want to and more.. I was picked on and bullied a little at primary school in NZ for stuttering.. but nothing compared to your experience.. I too will share this.. hope life is treating you well these days..

    • Thank you for taking the time to read the post and for leaving a comment Ron. Bullying – unfortunately – is not limited to Australia, nor do children find it difficult to play let’s find out where the pain points are.

  74. David Black says

    Is Safe Schools going to replace the traditional form of bullying with another? Minorities can be pretty ruthless when they have the whip hand? Are students and parents who hold more traditional views going to be labelled as “bigots” ( a change from “racists,” “Islamophobes,” “misogynists” etc?) Was the trashing of Corey Bernardi’s office a sign of what is to come?
    Will this comment be published?

    • Yes David, the comment will be posted. The trashing of Bernardi’s office was a disgraceful act, and I said as much on my twitter feed when the news broke. I don’t agree with his politic’s but he has the right to express himself, without being attacked or his staff threatened. Just as I have the right to my opinions and, while I’m happy to discuss them if I end up with a metaphorical office trashing here I’ll simply delete the comment unanswered. You can change words around all you like, and you can make an arguement to back up practically anything. I wrote my story, based on my views and experiences. I don’t think anyone should be bullied for their belief’s. Whether it be God made Adam and Eve, or the world travels through space on the back of a giant turtle. The point I was trying to make with the need for Safe Schools is that all people need to be treated with respect.

      • David Black says

        Mike, I looked at your twitter feed and wasn’t able to find any trace of your condemning the attack on Corey Bernadi’s office.

      • Well it’s there. I think the attack on Bernardi’s office was irresponsible and ultimately derailing – as it is in this post – of an important issue that needs to be addressed. Safety in schools should be the main focus, the safety of vulnerable children. By trashing the office they activists proved to be as immature in the debate as Bernardi himself. Terrorising his staff – and wife – is as gutless as school bully beating up a smaller kid, or standing up under Parliamentary Privilege and insinuating one of the founders of Safe Schools is a pedophile.

    • Matt says

      David,
      I think we are going to see a lot more violence and destruction. There is safety in numbers and I believe that there will be more of people grouping together to turn the whip on their oppressors.

      Mike, thank you for speaking so honestly and rationally. Like many others here I was bullied right through school. To this day I am filled with anger, I have trouble trusting people, I am wracked by self loathing but most of all I harbor a deep hatred of authority. I struggle with anxiety depression every day. I have two children at school and I constantly worry about their school experience.

      The government scrapped Safe Schools for exactly the same reasons why bullies made your life a misery: because they can get away with punishing people who they think can’t fight back. I vividly remember the emotional agony I felt at school, the hopelessness from being isolated, the frustration from having no where to run and no one to turn to. But most of all I remember the lust for blood, the obsession with inflicting hurt upon the people who damaged me. I wanted to explode and burn the place to the ground take the entire school to hell with me. The only thing stopping me was the fact that I had no backup and the school would have made me suffer more. I sometimes still wish that I had thrown some tables and caused some life long injuries.

      Remembering this rage, I now shudder to think what will come of this. The LNP have taken us one step closer to an American society where people, especially students already dealing with growing up, feel their only option is to violently lash out.

      I like the Discworld reference, too!

      • Hi Matt, thank you for reading my post and for sharing your story. I really appreciate you taking the time to do that. I’m sorry you experienced that. Bullying has long-term effects and it’s not something that gets much attention. I think it stems from the belief of bullying just being words, or the occasional fight. Systemic, daily bullying cuts away at a child’s strength and self esteem and sense of self. Expecting people to just “get over it”, is dumb. If this blog helps one person to realise they’re not alone, that you can rebuild a new and fantastic life and that what happened doesn’t need to be your definition of self then it was worth it.

  75. David Black says

    Mike, are you going to let comments that don’t agree with your stance get through?

    • Hi David, of course so long as they’re not abusive I’ve got no problem discussing the issue. If you have a look at the comments already approved, there are several that don’t agree with what I’ve said. Oddly enough, I haven’t had that many, but it could because most people are reaching out with their own stories of bullying. The only comment I’ve trashed was one that felt the need to swear and call me names. So long as the discussion is both polite and productive I’ve got no problem with it.

  76. jodie says

    Mike, thank you for your letter & to Mrs Wong@woogland for her facebook share. im not sure what to write as your story speaks of so much pain, something that i wish i could take away. please continue to be the strong person that is evident in your writing. i believe times will change, support you and the LBGT community! i vote and i care!

    • Thank you Jodie, for taking the time to leave a comment I really appreciate it. My story is long since moved to history, life now is nothing like my school career. Life is ultimately what you make it and I’m pretty pleased with the life I’ve made for myself 🙂 I too believe that times will change.

  77. Steve says

    Hi Mike,
    Reading your story was like looking in a mirror and seeing myself go through so much of what you went through. I remember whilst in primary school we had to visit our new Secondary school prior to our commencing there in the Autumn term. I to this day have no idea why but some of the high school kids took it upon themselves to verbally abuse me with “poofter” name calling and some pushing. I was scared as I was surrounded and my primary school “mates” did nothing? When I got back on the bus to return to primary school I was so relieved to be away from there but also terrified knowing that come Sept that was going to be my daily hell…which it was?
    And so it began frm day 1 for the next 5 years. Daily bullying consisting of name calling, pushing, being followed around – no where was safe- they always seemed to find me however hard I tried. Walking to and from school was just as bad. The very few friends I did have had to endure hearing the name calling and being asked “Why you hanging round with this poofter for”? Liking ABBA was a HUGE no-no and word got around that someone had heard me listening to ABBA at my house – so that was it – in the early 80’s “boys/men” didn’t listen or certainly tolerate ABBA and if you did you were a “poof” There was just no winning. My voice didn’t “break” til quite late so another excuse to have a go. I only could find friendship with girls but looking back now it was yet another target on my back. The worst thing was that as newer younger kids came into high school word spread so I was attacked by younger kids all in gangs. It must sound that I was very weak in not fighting back but when you are one against 3-10 kids you don’t stand a chance! I remember vividly on leaving primary school we went around to all our teachers and have them sign a card for us with a message. My last teacher had written a very nice thoughtful message on everyone’s card, but mine read something quite different. There was no “Enjoy and have fun” Just “Good Luck?” I wonder did he have an inkling into what lay ahead for me?
    The teachers at my school in the 80’s were hopeless and I knew there was just no point in reaching out for help. Some of the male teachers I suspect would’ve had an “well you do ask for it” mentality…like you actually want to go through this hell every single day?
    I never ever thought of suicide or even “bunked off” and the strange thing is is that a few ex-school “mates” had no idea and thought I enjoyed school?
    I wish there was someone I had trust and faith in that I could’ve gone to at school. It would’ve made all the difference just to talk it out and maybe get some advice on how to deal with it.
    Safe School programmes are essential bullying takes many shapes and forms and this govt has put a target on the back of every child that may be seen as “different” and will endure hell as opposed to growing and enjoying their school years. Shame on the Aust Govt!

    • Hi Steve, I too had people who were friendly to me in school who were then the victims themselves of the bullies for being friends with a poof. It was designed to ensure isolation I assume. Friends never lasted all that long and honestly I can’t blame them for that. Had the roles been reversed I doubt I’d have been any tougher.

  78. Sudharsana says

    Dear Mike , Thank you for your honesty. I am deeply moved and now I don’t know what to say. God bless u and be with u at all times and give u immense happiness. If you ever are in manly side of Sydney I would love to meet u. You are an inspiration.

    • Thank you Sudharsana, when you’re an adult you have the power to make your own life and that’s exactly what I did. School was rough and I would have liked it to be easier but not of all us get those lessons. It’s up to us to do with the lessons what we will. Thank you for reading my post and commenting on it, I really appreciate you taking the time.

  79. roma guerin says

    Just an addenda – you are correct Mike re the 1st preference votes in 2013 election – Ricky Muir was fourth last, followed by Michaelia Cash, another Lib and one Lab.
    Thanks to you for brilliant writing, and telling your history. I am so glad you have reached a “safe” place by dint of damned hard work. Good on you. I would also thank the transgender commenters for raising it, as I have a family member who somehow survived till the age of 40 before a complete breakdown. She is now past 50 and euphorically happy.

    • Hi Roma, I’m so happy to hear your family member is doing well now. That’s great news. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, it’s really appreciated.

  80. billgasiamis says

    Education education education! not at the cognitive level but at the heart level. A safe school could be a great place to teach compassion for self and others. When I was bullied and got bashed it was painful to me and the emotions after all these years still come flooding back. What I didn’t realise then, was that when I was then in the roll of bully (and only god knows why I chose to do that) that my behaviour hurt others like I hurt when it happened to me. Apparently didn’t know what I didn’t know. I have since apologised to a few of the people I wronged, it made it better for both me and them. Glad you got through it and that you are using your experience to make a difference to others,

  81. Well looks like sharing this worked wonders – I even put it up on the PM’s FB page where strangely it hasn’t been removed. I would have put it on George C. site but I’m kinda sorta blocked there – apparently as a member of the Mackay Conservation Group I’m a dangerous terrorist who’s trying to destroy Australia plus I’ve learnt to never engage in debate with him and those who follow his pages as it’s akin to slamming you’re head against a wall. I’m so glad that so many people have been able to see through to the heart of your story in a way that resonates and proves without a doubt that programs such as Safe Schools are needed so very desperately.

    • Hi Jenni, Sorry about the delay in replying the comments are a bit difficult to manage. Who knew this post would generate so much discussion :). I am glad it did though. Thank you for sharing this to the PM’s Facebook Page lol. I had no idea. I wouldn’t bother with the others either, they don’t seem particularly open mind if I’m honest.

      • Yeah sometimes trying to keep up with comments etc can be more than a little time consuming – I’m still seeing your article pop up all over the place including AIM which is great.

      • Yes, it does keep popping up. I’ve got a feeling it will keep popping up for a while yet. Yes, I saw it AIM the other day and had no idea it was there. That was a nice surprise.

  82. Zelly says

    Oh, it went on for years and years. I fell off a bunk bed and my hand landed in between a girls’ legs. The next thing i knew i was gay. I was 13. People stood outside my house and yelled things. They tried to attack me in the hall – i won that one. They followed me around the local shopping centre. It just went on and on and on.

    I was luckier than you. I left that school a couple of years later and things were completely different at the next school. I try not to allow people to bully me anymore but it’s difficult. The people who tortured me are, well, some are doing well but they all seem to still live in the same suburb which confused me. They nearly all have really unattractive children.

    I was straight by the way. Not that it matters. It’s got to stop.

    • Hi Zelly, thank you for reading my blog and taking the time to comment. I’m sorry you went through that experience. And I agree, bullying for whatever reason has to stop.

  83. Hi Mike,
    My name is Suzanne. Im a single mother of 2 kids living on the Central Coast of NSW and I am sobbing at your story, as it was one I saw so often at my own school. I wasnt a bully, I was the tiny little girl with the big brothers…and the big voice. I hate bullying of any kind. I have recently seen it in action with the Parents and Grandparents of my daughters boyfriend. Full grown adults…60+ year old grandparents REFUSING to see his point of view. Approaching him in groups (grandad, grandma, uncles, little brothers etc)…all crowding around hurling put downs and abuse. Following him, my daughter and my ex husband into a local club where they were going for dinner, spewing foul words all the way. Calling him immature. a poor excuse for a son/grandson, an embarressment to the family…IN THE MIDDLE OF A CENTRAL COAST LEAGUES CLUB. He is only 18 years old…and according to my ex husband, acted FAR more mature during the incedent than the SO CALLED adults involved. Bullying takes many forms. During my daughters year 10 and year 11 schooling, three girls committed suicide (By train no less. as the bullies had used social media to cinvince 2 of them that jumping in front of a train was there best option). One girls bullies went so far as to make a fake website, and send her FAKE HSC results saying she had failed. She hung herself that night. Weeks later she was named DUX of the school. In her last 3 years of high school my daughter has lost 5 classmates to suicide as a DIRECT result of bullying. I am at the point that i’m trying to convince MY 21 year old son to homeschool his future children, My 17 year old daughter has claimed her future children will NEVER have social media.
    These are all things our current goverment are turning a blind eye too. What they arent counting on…are the kids who are coming up to voting age ready for 2017…..and from what ive been hearing in there conversations about politics ( and its surprisingly a regular subject between my children and their friends), the tolerance for telling lies and selling your soul to be an elected Australian Prime minister, is wainting. These kids are SICK TO DEATH of the empty promises. They have watched the promises being made…and later broken….and even at 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17…long before they are old enough to vote….they are MORE than old enough to understand and see it for what it is. A bunch of pollies spewing rubbish. As my 21 year old son and his friends are now saying, you show US the politician that is willing to tell us the truth, to tell us the stuff everyone else WONT, and we will show YOU who to vote for. The UP AND COMING voters are a different breed, a different generation….and in the next few years they WILL feel the repurcussions. There are alot of kids out there who are angry. Im not gay, bi, lesbian, transgender, or anything else but a mum and future grandma, who is SCARED TO DEATH of the world theyre growing up in. Keep up the fight. Your doing a FANTASTIC job in posting this letter. Have you ever thought of running for prime minister. ????

    • Hi Suzanne, thank you for reading my post and leaving a comment. Me as PM, God no lol. I’d last an hour 🙂 The next generation of voters are a different breed to previous generations, and I highly doubt any of our current crop of politicians realise it. They’re much more aware politically than I was, that’s for sure.

  84. An interesting read, but I can’t see how teaching children about devient sexual behavior is going to save another child from abuse. How about teaching children what it’s like for people to come from another country or culture. In my experience people from other cultures have had a hard time of it. Sure the LGBTI’s are certainly another culture and I’m sure they too cop more than a lot of flack. But to go about and Justify the sexualisation of children, this to me is a grave injustice, and will only lead in future to further intimidation and lack of respect for others.

    • Hi Peter, thanks for your comment and for reading my story. As I’ve said previously, I can write only based on my person experience, not the experiences of others. I have to say referring to teaching children about deviant sexually behaviour is something I’ve heard a lot about but can’t find any information on sexual deviancy in any of the literature I’ve reviewed. If you’re referring to being LGBT as being sexually deviant, that’s a whole other issue and one I won’t discuss here. I’m sure I’ve misunderstood you though, I highly doubt anyone would come onto a post about homophobic abuse and then insinuate the author is a sexual deviant.

  85. Gab says

    Ok does anyone actually follow news and current affairs one of the co founders of the school save programs in a private meeting clearly said that the school safe program ISN’T about anti bullying. I didn’t make this up the actual co founder said it. So click on the link do some research then make an informed decision. And by the way all the links and websites that where referenced to in the school save program are been altered and changed because an enquiry was going to happen.
    If nothing bad was on these sites and links why did they go about changing them.

    Click the link watch the video and then comment. School save program is NOT about anti bullying.
    https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1705812679702382&id=100008209990380

    • Seems the link is unavailable.

      Also it’s called ‘Safe School’, not school save.

      And if it’s not about anti-bullying, what is it about? Turning kids gay? Is that possible? I think we’ve been trying for ages to cruelly turn gay/lesbian/bi/other kids straight, to no avail but pain, what makes you think the opposite works?

      Try having some empathy. Did you even read this letter? I’m not sure you did, given the lack of emotion or care in your response to a deeply personal and sad story. Go out there and read some other stories. go out there and read some articles about people in the LGBTI community being bullied, or abused, or kicked out of home, or killing themselves. Gods damn it, you people are so happy in your ignorance and judgement.

      • Hi Aolani, thanks for reading my letter and taking the time to comment. There is a lot of misinformation about Safe Schools at the moment, and there’s a lot of rhetoric going around that on a bit of research shows the muddying of the water but not a lot of substance. I’m toying with the idea of writing a post on Safe Schools itself, going beneath the media and politician driven hype and just giving the fact.

  86. Stephanie Kyrin says

    I’m a bit beside myself with emotion. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Mike, it must have been incredibly hard and I hope you don’t feel too raw from it. You’re very brave, and you’re very right, and I really hope this somehow finds it’s way to the Prime Minister. Because it was a sad day for Australia and for kids hoping to be safe at school that day.
    Thank you for standing up for all those kids and adults alike, me one of them, who were ever bullied or hurt or emotionally and mentally broken down by a school system that let them be teased for their differences. I can only hope it will do something.

    • Thank you Stephanie for taking the time to both read and comment. I didn’t find it particularly hard to write to be honest. I didn’t expect anyone to read it. Before this post the most I ever had read a blog was about 30 people lol. Had I known this was going to happen, I may have changed the way I wrote it, more formal than conversational but if I’d done that it probably wouldn’t have done what it’s doing.

  87. Terry says

    Mike … I’m lost for words. Fighting back tears. Angry. Thanks so much for sharing.

  88. Adam Stein says

    Hi Mike,
    I hope you dont mind, but I have shared this on a page which I am admin. GSA Gay Sydney Australia has about 3000 followers. I felt it necessary to share this to our followers. Its a powerful message (one of many) that needs to be heard above the lies and ignorance that currently abounds. As I write this I am doing it through tears. Your brutal honest truly moved me. I am a 50 year old gay dad. Thankfully, (I guess ) I never revealed my sexuality to anyone when I was young so I sheltered myself from the hate and ignorance. I came out at 38, have grown strong and proud, and have had my childrens support and love along the way.
    There is a lot more I could say but I will simply say thank you for telling your story to the world.
    Peace, Love & Happiness.

    • Thank you Berina, the length of the post worried me. It seemed to go forever lol. Glad you liked my post & thanks for taking the time to comment.

  89. Michael WingLun says

    An intelligent and beautiful letter that says it all. I too was bullied at school, no where near as badly and I had a few friends at least. I guess to a child it’s all relative and pain is pain whether emotional or physical. Thank you for this brave and important letter. Michael.

    • Thanks Michael, I agree. The pain to a child is all relative. It shapes the way they look at the world, the level of trust they develop in social settings and with their peers. As I’ve discovered since writing this post, while what I endured was all encompassing for me, there were so many other people out there, much stronger than I am who dealt with even worse. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, I really appreciate it.

  90. Nancy Entwistle says

    Thank you Mike. You have made me think about introducing LGBTI info to my son who is eight – in a way which encourages him to respect difference of all kinds.

    • Hi Nancy, that’s a lovely thing to hear. I don’t think kids are ever too young to learn about love and support and tolerance. No one says you have to like everyone, I know I don’t, but everyone should be treated with respect. Thanks for taking the time to read the blog, and for commenting 🙂

  91. Thank you, it is so important to openly discuss sexual preferences and gender identity from a very young age with our children. It doesn’t mean we need to talk about the act of sex in detail, it just means we can be age appropriate and say things like “Ben and Tim are boyfriends, that means they like to cuddle and spend time together” or “Jim doesn’t feel right deep inside as a boy, so he is changing on the outside”. Honestly, the more we weave the reality of our diverse and beautiful human population into every day life the happier, and safer, we can all be. BUT not all parents will have open views or discuss this with their children – so we NEED the safe schools program to do this – so everyone can hear the message.

    • Hi Alice, I think you hit the nail on the head there. Age appropriate discussions are very important. I don’t think anyone is saying, at least from what I can find, that we need to break into the nitty gritty details of sex with young children. But being open and age appropriate and teaching to love and respect others is a great place to begin. I think one of the biggest problems with this whole discussion is that those who don’t see it as appropriate don’t understand the difference between the act of Sex and Sexuality and a general topic. Sexuality and Diversity are important issues for all Australians to be aware of. What happens during sex however, is nobodies business let alone information that should be given to a 7 or 8 year old. Thank you for your comment, I really appreciate you taking the time to read the post and leave comment.

  92. Mike I agree with a lot you say but not totally. Kids are not just bullied because they are perceived as gay I am very short and was bullied particularly for a few years in high school but happily at a private school the head mistress was able to stop it (think they were threatened with expulsion). I was also called a lebian (not really sure why, and in the 60’s and early 70s I was rather uncertain about exactly what a lesbian was I wasn’t but one of the instigators was). I honestly feel that safe schools should be about bullying in general not just LGBTI and especially when the children are young not emphasizing the sexual side of it. I am glad you have a happy life I left school after I got my school certificate life has it’s ups and downs.

    • Hi Jo, thanks for reaching out and for reading my letter. I really appreciate you taking the time. I absolutely agree with you that all children should be protected from bullying. It’s a curse. I wrote about LGBT bullying, purely from the perspective of it being my experience. I can’t write on the experience of being bullied for being fat, or thin, or any of the other myriad reasons kids bully each other. My experience though was never intended to negate the experiences of others. I think Safe Schools should be expanded to be a course teaching love and respect for your fellow students, that was one of the points I had hoped to portray in the writing. Having researched the Safe Schools programme a bit before writing, I’m not sure where all the information on sex has come from. Sexuality yes, teaching Year 7 & 8 students to respect each other regardless of sexual preference, but there’s nothing that I can find that address actual sex. Anyway, thanks again for commenting and I apologise if you feel like I purposely disregarded other forms of bullying, as I said, I wrote from my experiences.

      • Thanks Mike I do not feel that you forgot other causes of bullying but think same people may have that’s why I agree with you that Safe Schools should be expanded so that all at school get love and respect and after the horror you went through I wish you all the best

  93. Karen SZYDLIK says

    I will be sharing..this is very moving…I do not want any of my children to be party to this bullying, ever…supporting those in the minority is good for everybody, how can people not see this? How can people not see that unity is in our diversity . We all need to be educated to not just accept but embrace, applaud, celebrate the individual., the difference. I hope my kids will be the ones that stand up to the bullies. Thank you for your letter.

    • Thanks Karen. I believe fear and lack of understanding plays a big role in why this has become an issue, or at least a media hot potato it’s always been an issue. If a child, anywhere, is bullied and some one says “dude, don’t be a dick” this whole ride with this letter has been worth it. I hope that whatever the “reason” for being bullied, kids around Australia learn and are taught expectance of all.

  94. Kris says

    Go Mike! Baring your soul on social media, you’re a braver man than me. One post stated that ‘ right needs might’. After years of mistreatment I can see the appeal of a call to arms. But I do think that would be self defeating. How could you ever convince onlookers that the cause was just. If teaching for 40 years taught me anything it was the power of insisting. When outnumbered and out manoeuvered keep insisting.
    So insist on being treated with respect. Persist with treating others with respect, even when they don’t deserve it. You might not win today, but you will win eventually… And you will be better able to live with yourself.
    Fight the good fight!…… With words.
    PS, how is the novel going? Cheers. Kris

    • Hi Kris, thanks for reading my post and taking the time to comment. The novel is slowly but surely getting there. I’ve had to start again – note to remember, don’t try writing an Epic Fantasy without a plot outline 🙂 – but it will happen. I agree with you that people need to keep insisting on being treated with respect and persisting in treating others the way they wish to be treated. Sometimes easier said than done, but we’re all human. We try out best.

  95. Mike, Well done. Well said. Thank you.

    I was on the other side of the spectrum. Loud. Passionate. Teen. Confused. And instead of becoming a victim I chose (out of fear) to be the bully. I was so good at putting negative attention on anyone that showed a glimpse of fear, so i would never be in their situation.

    I know my teachers could see that’s what was going on and I regret as a gay man now, that I put kids though hell. Fortunately, I have made contact with most of them and have worked my butt off to prove that it was me with the problem, not them.

    Something has to be done in schools to assist each individual. The day of the cane is gone and so is the style we went to school under. Change must and should happen.

    Scottscott

    • Hi Scott, we all make choices when we’re younger.It’s why I hold no animosity to the boys who made my life hell. I’m sure they’ve all grown up now and make better choices, just as I have. It’s nice that you’ve reached out to those you can find who you may have hurt. That’s a fantastic thing to do. Good on you.

  96. Greg says

    Thanks for writing this Mike. I would imagine it must have been a difficult task to bear one’s heart and soul as you have. I hated school vehemently and, like you, thinking about school still makes me feel ill. I went to high school in the western suburbs of Sydney and was bullied and abused because I dared to be in the A classes for all my subjects BUT was not at all capable in sport, especially football. Basically I was useless at sport and that was a cardinal sin. While I had friends, they all played cricket or football (the only sports approved in western Sydney) so most were spared. I joined the cadets to escape, despite loathing everything about what they represented. But at least I found some sort of niche. On camps where we had to do orienteering at night in the bush near Singelton, I did not break down crying in the dark like almost all of my bullies did. And I made a new friend. Someone I had never spoken to and did not know much about. But he wanted to learn things about navigation and the bush. And, it turned out, he was the best fighter in the school by light years. I had not even known. The bullies were all terrified of him, but he never bullied anyone (which is I guess why I had never really noticed him). He made it clear on that camp that no-one was to ever touch me again, so I gained a few years of fear-free schooling. He left in Year 10, but so did most of the bullies (surprise surprise). I still hated school and have never attended a reunion although in the last few years I have worked up the courage to reconnect with a few of those who were friends 35 years ago. Through all of that I managed to maintain my love of science and was able to put aside my loathing of education to gain a doctorate and a position in a top tertiary institution. But I still hated school with all my heart.

    • Hi Greg, I often wonder why I didn’t join something. Things became very different when I left school, maybe they’d have different while I was at school. Thank you for taking the time to read & comment Greg, I really appreciate it.

  97. Hi Mike,

    I am sitting here at work and tears are streaming down my face. I feel the same as you, when people say school is the best years of my life I always answer “I definitely hope not”. I grew up in a very small town and endured the prejudices and small mindedness that goes with that, but when I heard the same insults being thrown at my children from the children of my tormentors I moved towns to try and escape. We moved to a slightly larger town and things seemed a bit better.
    My son was in exactly the same boat as you. I remember him telling me at age 12 he didn’t know if he was Gay or whether he just thought he was because every one called him that. I told him it didn’t matter, he didn’t have to be anything, but inside I cried for a child who was struggling with a label and what it meant. a lot more happened to him, that I would only discover years later even to a Principle calling him into the office and advising him not to come to school the next day as he “couldn’t guarantee his safety”, he never told me that one – probably because he feared for the principles safety if I found out!

    When my son was being bullied daily, beaten up, school bag stolen and dropped from 3rd story windows (several phones lost this way) and having large potted plants and such thrown at him from the top of the stairs etc, he endured. He set up a support group for LGBT kids and their friends at lunchtime in a safe room. He fought the system, he tried to make it better for those that followed (some of whom found and thanked him after he left school). He found the bravery within himself and made me the proudest mum on earth. He fought back physically sometimes too when it got too much, and I was called to school meetings and told that no matter what he had endured there was no excuse for violence, and I seethed and listened to excuses for the behaviour of children who were taught to hate the uniqueness in others.

    When I first heard about safe schools I was overjoyed. Imagine school being a place where instead of children finding life so bleak and depressing they want to die they are supported and given hope and recognised for their differences. I thought maybe the bogan bullying mentality was at last going to be addressed not just ignored.

    Then the Christians stepped in. The very people who proclaim themselves as believers in a philosophy of love one another and in the same breath condemn all who do not comply with their hypocritical, judgemental belief system. I sometimes wish the Christians are right because the way most of the ones I have encountered behave they will not be going to heaven I can assure you!

    I did not vote for Tony Abbot, I thought he was misogynistic, homophobic and generally a bit of a scum bag, when Turnbull came in to power I did believe, as you did that there was potential to become a world leading nation, instead we found the individual sucked in to the crowd, what a shame.

    I would love to say I am a proud Australian, but today I am not. I cannot be proud of a country that supports a culture of marginalisation and bullying, and that’s what we are today – the Bogan cousin!

    • Hi Mrs Warbo, great comment, thank you for taking the time to read the post and to reply. I don’t know what I’d have done if my Principal had told me not to go back because he couldn’t guarantee my safety. I know my parent’s though, that could have been an interesting explosion to watch. I hope your son is happy now, and that his life is all he wants it to be. I remember wondering the same thing, whether I was gay because I was gay, or whether I was gay because I’d be told I was years. Now, I know it’s because I am, but back then it was a real “wtf” moment.

  98. Gayle says

    That is well written Mike. Thankyou ever so much. Western suburbs and Central Coast ring true for myself as well in the 70’s. Thankyou.You have hit the nail on the head.

    • Thanks Gayle, I hope the blog turns out to give someone, somewhere the knowledge that even in the darkest of times, hope for better is never misplaced.

  99. G’day Mike. Me: 62, gay, CEO, Masters Degree, clinical depression and anxiety, love literature and writing, blessed to be loved and generally speaking, despite everything, now happy with my life.

    I was bullied by Gavin Fox and Rodney Sanderson throughout high school. I don’t care if they read their names here, and it’s the first time I’ve ever written them in full as an adult. For years, I was taunted with names, followed into the toilets and mocked, forced to make up highly sexualised stories and tell them out loud, had my shoes hidden and was punished for not wearing them, was hung by my feet from a first story balcony, and generally made to feel like I was a complete piece of shit. I was also born and bred a country Methodist and shouldn’t even know the word ‘shit’, but there you go. Methodist was it’s own form of bullying. I was a sinner and would burn in hell. The end of the world would come and everyone else would ascend to be with Jesus and I would be left behind. I would get up in the middle of the night even as a teenager, to check that my brother and parents were still there.

    How do you tell your parents or the Principal that other boys are taunting you as a pansy, fairy, queen, poofter when you know that they’re right..? I knew I was attracted to boys from age twelve and spent years of torture repressing even the most fundamental sexual thought until age twenty-eight when a massive panic attack hospitalised me. In the ward of the psychiatric wing that looked like something out of Florence Nightingale, I finally heard myself telling the psychologist ‘I think I might be gay.’

    Brilliant and kind man that he was, he didn’t pause. ‘Yes, but what is the real problem…?’ he asked. I didn’t pause either. Through a flood of tears I sobbed ‘No one ever touches me.’

    No hugs. No cuddles. I’d shut them all down in the shadow of the fear that I’d been taught by bullies at school, bullies who ran churches and bullies who made my sexuality illegal until I was forty. Shut them down and lived an emotional hermit for fear that the demon named by the bullies might escape. It was agony. But from that moment forward life began, slowly and painfully, to build in a different direction.

    I am desperately sorry for your pain, Mike. Truly…it reduced me to tears. These things happened to you a full twenty years after some of them happened to me. That means twenty years of boys sobbing themselves to sleep at night. Twenty years of boys feeling sick to the pit of their gut at school dances and formals. Twenty years of young men taking their own lives in the dark of their fears.

    So I have a message for the hurt little boy and teenager inside you, inside me, inside so many in our communities, and inside children of the future who will still experience the pain because people in power refused to rise above political opportunism and prejudice. That message is this.

    ‘It wasn’t your fault. You were a beautiful precious amazing kid full of light and potential. Being gay or any one of the rest of the alphabet soup of letters that describe us, was then, and is now, who you were perfectly born to be. The people who hurt you needed to create pain in another person in order to feel strong. They were weak people. Weak and sad. It should never have happened but it did. But despite how much it hurt, they have made you strong. Not just you. It also happened in different but still agonising ways to girls, Aboriginal kids, Greek kids, Italian kids, Vietnamese kids, kids who looked different or spoke with an accent, kids whose parents were too poor to buy them uniforms, overweight kids, and kids who stuttered. You share a story and history with all of them and with me. The pain has not gone in memory and sometimes it wakes in a sweat and trembling, but you have made it something strong and good and full of light and courage. You have made that pain seek justice and love others unconditionally. Because you were a survivor from the first instant. You were never a victim because you chose survival every day. And you go on choosing it. Thank God.’

    And to the politicians; to Malcolm Turnbull, I have this to say.

    I beg you to set the bullies free. To let them out of the dark prejudices that bind them to violence and hate. To let them see love and gentleness in people and places they never expected. And to break forever the shackles of ignorance that slow their lives to the dreary pace of daily bitterness.

    They deserve it.

    • Ken, what an amazingly written and eloquent comment. I am sorry for you that you experienced the bullying and the isolation for so long but I have to thank you for sharing your story here, your knowledge and your power. *hug*

    • Your words brought me to tears Ken. Amazing. Thank you for sharing.

      These words are just brilliant!

      “You were a beautiful precious amazing kid full of light and potential. Being gay or any one of the rest of the alphabet soup of letters that describe us, was then, and is now, who you were perfectly born to be. The people who hurt you needed to create pain in another person in order to feel strong. They were weak people. Weak and sad. It should never have happened but it did. But despite how much it hurt, they have made you strong. Not just you. It also happened in different but still agonising ways to girls, Aboriginal kids, Greek kids, Italian kids, Vietnamese kids, kids who looked different or spoke with an accent, kids whose parents were too poor to buy them uniforms, overweight kids, and kids who stuttered. You share a story and history with all of them and with me”.

    • Hi Lisa, thank you for reading my post & leaving me a comment. If this post can do that, encourage people to stand together against bullies and set about making it a reality that all children – and adults – are treated with the respect they deserve, then writing it was absolutely worth it.

  100. Lola Lynch says

    Congratulations Mike, hopefully somebody will listen and do something. I live in Country Victoria and our local National Party member Andrew Broad made an insulting analogy comparing same sex relationships to “rams having sex in a paddock” and there has been no apology or comment from the National Party, so I fear we have a very long road ahead, but thanks for sharing your amazing letter

    • Hi Lola, thanks for reading my blog and leaving a comment. I heard Andrew Broad’s comments. What a douche. Trust me, having been in same sex relationships they’re just as same – or so it seems – to those relationships my straight friends have. There’s definitely no paddock sex lol.

  101. I REALLY appreciate the fact you pointed out how you were able to go home and shut your door and feel safe and kids these days can’t. I couldn’t, no matter how supportive and encouraging my parents were. I’m only 21 but I don’t think the scars from bullying will ever fade. Yeah it might have made me a more compassionate and empathetic person and “built my character” but it also gave me anxiety, an eating disorder and affected my perception of myself. All of those things making it hard as an adult now to make friends and have relationships. I can’t even read my work emails without anxiety and fear of what may be on the other side haha
    Thank you for speaking your truth man. I envy those who don’t understand because it means they haven’t ever experienced it, but thank you for helping those break free of their ignorance with sharing your story.

    • Thanks for taking the time to both read and comment Caitlin, I really appreciate it. Bullying today is something even I can’t comprehend. The idea of never escaping them sends shivers down my spine. I’ve had issues over the years trusting people due to a belief that no one could honestly see any value in me, so what do they want. It took a lot of time to get beyond that one. My only bit of advice is to take it a day and a time. One day, you realise that all the demons that have taken up residence in your thoughts have no idea what they’re doing either and once you figure that out, letting them go is easier. Not easy, but easier.

      • Thanks for replying yo!
        I got into a fight with somebody this week, a friend from the internet. He didn’t believe that somebody that “looked like me” or whatever could have been bullied, that people could bully and be mean for no real “reason”. Trying to explain in detail why I was harassed was really hard and he still didn’t “believe”. You’re right in that whole, you couldn’t see any value in you bit cause even though I’m a different person now and people can see a different person now, on the inside I’m still that weird kid being harassed.
        The worst part though, is that most of my “bullies” if not all of them, don’t even know they were bullies. It was cool and funny to be mean to some kids, they didn’t even think they were being mean. I ran into a couple of girls at a club a few months ago, girls that really really hurt me in school. I panicked hardcore and they saw me and waved me over and asked how I’d been, as if we were friends in school. They had no idea I was close to a panic attack cause they had no idea they even had any negative affect.
        I wonder how may of those people supporting all this, the people who say bullying builds character and what not, are those same people who never even realised they were bullies.

  102. Thank you Mike for your heart-felt yet well-reasoned letter. As a retired teacher I am horrified at the stories in the comments of the indifference of teachers who failed to act against bullying. They are a disgrace to the profession. I am sharing your letter on FB and on Twitter (directly to Malcolm Turnbull’s Twitter feed). I hope that he reads it and realises that he has caved in to the bigots and scaremongers of the far right.

    • Hi Flavia, thank you for taking the time to read this post and to leave me a comment. And thank you for sharing it on your Facebook and Twitter, that’s really nice of you. I think, at least in my case, the teachers were as clueless as to how to stop it as I was. I too hope he’s read it. Given the amount of shares to this twitter account I’m fairly sure his media team have seen it once or twice 🙂

  103. Kylie says

    Hi Mike,
    You may not have gotten the respect you deserved as a child, but it is obvious from the responses to your letter that you have certainly attained respect now.
    As children in these horrible circumstances we cannot believe there is light at the end of the horrible dark tunnel, but you are an example of hope.
    Thank you for allowing us a glimpse of your horror, in the hope of a better outcome for others.
    You will change someone’s life through this!

    • Hi Kylie, thank you for taking the time to read my post and to leave a comment. I really appreciate it. The comments and responses I’ve received for this post have been beyond my expectations. Honestly, I didn’t expect anyone to comment let alone read this. It can be hard to see the light when you’re trapped in the middle of the storm, but if someone can sense that once you’re through the other side life is wonderful, then writing it was worth it.

  104. the bullies in the schools go on to get jobs. the best bullies get jobs as politicians. It pays best. And you get jobs like US ambassador if you completely screw up as treasurer. Indexed pension for life etc. even after death it carries on and the missus gets to keep the snout in the public funded trough. The lesser great bullies work somewhere and kill people. wreck their lives and destroy them. I wonder what is the suicide rate in this country due to bullying. I think it would be amazing.It would be more than post traumatic stress in the army every single year. .Just normal people up against psychotic nut cases who want a fortune, but have zero ability except the ability to lie cheat spread rumours and suck up. seen it. Been there. Done it. Lost 130 grand. taken a 50 grand pay cut. Told by the Australian Government to rent out my house, “go live in Bali” – NSW govt. Forty years of tax paying and go f off. nice.
    bring on n election I say. Only problem they are all politicians standing, so whatever you do you get a pig with its filthy trotters in the trough.

    • Hi Gary, thanks for taking the time to read the blog and leave a comment. Bullies definitely seem to be prevalent in public life and if you don’t agree with them, you’re bullying them yourself. It’s an odd circle really. I do hope the next election will see a change in Government. Australia really can’t afford another 3 years of the LNP Government doing nothing but selling all the furniture and watching the country go down the drain.

  105. WOW what a eloquent reply. I am a mum off 2 teenage boys in Croatia, when I first heard about the safe schools program I bragged to all my friends how proud I was of the Australian Education system. Croatia is a deeply homophobic country, perhaps it is the prominence of Catholicism mixed with the old socialist/communist values but such a program would never be accepted here. Now it looks as though I will be wiping the rancid egg off my face. I am gutted this government has betrayed the LGBT and all kids who will be bullied for any reason. I believe you have bravely put forward what many more people feel and wish you well.

    • Hi Mikki, thank you for reading my blog and for taking the time to leave a comment. The Safe Schools programme is a programme that has been derailed by fear and misinformation. It’s a shame the media here has allowed the miscommunication to thrive. It is a programme proven to give children the tools to protect themselves, and to know they are not alone. I am hopeful the ground swell of public support will see the Labor Opposition support the programme should they win the upcoming election.

  106. Paul says

    Hi Mike! One of my British readers – Willow at https://willowdot21.wordpress.com/ – a poet and blogger, commented on the post I did about you and included a very powerful video https://youtu.be/PVjiKRfKpP by the Irish singer Hozier , “Take Me to Church” was released worldwide in October 2014. For me it was an emotionally disturbing look into the problems you described.

  107. NoelCan says

    Mike you have brought memories flooding back. My time in a private school in the 50’s was a living nightmare. Changing to a public secondary school improved my situation, but not much. The best days were the ones that I skipped school and went to the museum and public libraries outside of my neborhood.

    • Hi Noel, Thanks for reading my blog and for leaving a comment. Oddly enough I never thought of skipping school. God only knows why I didn’t lol. I took a lot of time off sick though.

  108. Fenno says

    I’m 76, and never read “attachments”, if that’s the word. But my daughter put it on Facebook and out of curiosity I opened it to see what all this fuss is about. Your eloquent, persuasive and reasoned argument, made me read all of your remarkable story which seems to be, on reading the many responses, regrettably common.
    In my formative years I never encountered or heard of the troubles and bullying that you and so many of the replies wrote about. So now I understand what all the fuss is about and I will make my feelings known to my MP.
    This goes further than the LGBT (what ever that is ) bullying, and I would hope all bullying would be confronted and attempts made to educate both bully and bullied. Social change doesn’t happen over night but I hope your persuasive open letter may well be the first step on a long, difficult but eventually life changing journey. It certainly has changed and informed me and I’m sure many others who were as ignorant as I. Long may your star shine and be followed. Thank you.

    P.S. I have just finished watching “The King’s Speech” and the piece showing Hitler and his henchmen who must have been the ultimate bullies; this made me wonder how things might, no– would have been different if Germany had been able to prevent bullies festering, and the country to accept them. Or is this too much of a long bow to draw?

    • Hi Fenno, thank you for taking the time to read my blog, particularly as you don’t usually read attachments. I’m very honoured you’ve not only read mine, but taken to the time to leave a comment. Bullying absolutely goes further than LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) issues. It effects so many people for such a large amount of reasons. If we can, however, get one form under control than moving on other forms of bullying should be a piece of cake.

  109. Vicki Irwin says

    Hi Mike. Thank you, thank you so much. Direct from one who suffered so much. One who really missed out on their childhood. You never had the ‘fun’ at school, the ‘friends’ at school. I’m 52, I have to admit, when I was at school I wasn’t really that nice. I did make fun of others (not every day). I didn’t live each day to be mean, but sadly at times I was. As I grew, experienced life, both good and bad, I have to say, the regret I feel, the embarrassment I feel, and the sadness I feel, for my actions as a school kid. If nothing else, I have my own child now, she is 18 years – turning 19. I can only hope and pray that I taught her that we are all equal. No matter, colour, race, religion, sexuality. I have taught her NONE of these things make us better than the other. We are ALL EQUAL in every way. We ALL have the right to walk down the street, go to school, marry who we love, eat in any restaurant, attend ANYTHING and ANYWHER. I have taught her, we should NOT have to vote on equality of any kind.
    The right to attend school, feel safe, be happy, enjoy your childhood……well this is not a right it is not something to be earned. This is something that should be happening everyday as part of life (no thought given, just an automatic reaction), all the time. Children, students, teachers, anyone, should be able to go ANYWHERE and feel safe. Unfortunalty there will always be the few meanies, these cannot be helped, these unfortunates I can only imagine do not have a happy life at home. No excuses, but children do not how to stand up for themselves, or ask for help.
    The Safe Schools, was a program that enabled a lot of injustices, bad behaviour – to be found. I would hope also, it followed through on behaviour to find out reasons why? Most of the time, these so called bullies are leading very sad lives at home.
    All in all we ALL need to stand together, HELP our future adults. They ALL deserve a happy life. Thank you so much for opening up and sharing. Our children, be them mine, yours or the kids down the road, ALL deserve a happy life. xx

    • Hi Vicki and thanks for taking the time to reply and to read. I think – actually I hope – that those who bully as kids would make better choices were they able to look back on the legacy they’ve left in those they hurt. I think it’s great that you made sure to teach your own daughter everyone is the same, and everyone is equal. I’m sure she has been able to make a difference.

      • Vicki Irwin says

        Yes Mike, My daughter is a truly wonderful and loving person. Accepting of everyone and everything. She see good things in everyone. I do need to say – I wasn’t one who made it my daily job to be mean – but there were times that I was definitely mean. I had people bully me at a very young age, maybe this was my defence. BUT, it is no excuse. I hate that saying, ‘an eye for an eye’. Back in my day, if we were picked on, we were told to stand up for ourselves. The sad thing is, in some cases, we tend to (looking back now as an adult, I understand better) read the warning signs and get in first. Now a days, as you sad, there is no safe haven, the kids go home and they still get it all on social media. And when one is hiding behind a screen, they are more hurtful than face to face. they have more courage to be mean. I for one want to see programs within our schools to educate all our kids about bullying, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse. A lot of times, these things all go together. Kids living with dv, drug and alcohol abuse, vent by ways of bullying. We are not born bullies, we grow into it. And there are reasons behind it. Anyway, I truly hope and pray you are living a happy and loving life. Enjoying what each day brings you.

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