BRISBANE indigenous woman Yarraka Bayles, mother of a boy with dwarfism, has appeared before a disability royal commission offering impassioned witness about the impact of bullying in schools.
“It chips, it festers, it boils up,” Ms Bayles told commissioners as she gave evidence in Brisbane.
Her son, nine-year-old Quaden Bayles made global headlines in February when vision emerged of him saying he was “going to kill” himself after a schoolyard bullying incident.
Yarraka Bayles filmed a video of his tearful reaction and posted it online.
The clip went viral and drew an outpouring of support at home and abroad.
Ms Bayles told the commission that the video had generated support for change, yet her family continued to receive ongoing threats from online trolls.
Dwarfism or skeletal dysplasia describes a category of rare genetic disorders that affect bones and joints and hinder children’s growth and development.
Ms Bayles said many schools did not know how to deal appropriately to support children with disabilities.
“Every school has an anti-bullying policy and you will see the signs at school that it’s a no bullying zone – but in actual fact we all know that bullying happens everywhere, not just in schools but in workplaces,” she said.
“What I would love to see is all those policies and procedures adhered to… there’s lots of grey in between – whether its parents or students or teachers – understandings of what exactly bullying is.
“If a child is being physically hurt then that’s bullying. But there are lots of different forms of bullying.”
Ms Baylis said she wanted the focus shifted from anti-bullying policies to “putting things in pace so that kids don’t feel left out”.
She said support for son Quaden had improved significantly since his plight was highlighted in February.
She said educational tools and training were needed and suggested the creation of “Quaden’s Law” – a framework to ensure that all kids feel safe at school.
“I would rather not call these kids bullies. I don’t believe they want to hurt kids. They don’t understand the consequence of their actions. I don’t want to get kids expelled or suspended because that doesn’t help,” Ms Baylis told the inquiry.
“There’s just not enough education around kids with disabilities, let alone Murri kids with disabilities.”
Ms Bayles was asked whether she considered cultural awareness training was an important part in curbing bullying.
“It’s paramount for the progression of this country. It should be compulsory that the true history of this country be shared,” she told commissioners.
“My grandmother used to say ‘if you live in this country and call this country home you have an obligation to learn the true history’.
“Our children are feeling they cannot proudly identify (as indigenous people), and that’s how I felt as a student in school back in the 80s and 90s.
“Unfortunately not much has changed. We have made little milestones and improvements, but we’ve definitely got a long way to go.”
Ms Bayles gave evidence fresh from a confidential settlement payout from News Corp columnist Miranda Devine last month.
Ms Devine apologised for suggesting Quaden faked being bullied to scam money, with the settlement approved in the Federal Court.
Over five days of commission hearings this week, students and parents are joining disability advocates and expert witnesses speaking about barriers to obtaining a safe, quality and inclusive school education and the consequences when that expectation isn’t met.
The inquiry will examine the impact on students with disability of absences, suspensions, exclusions and expulsion from school, and the barriers to making reasonable adjustments and supports available, for students with disability.
The latest public hearings are being heard in Brisbane but are stretched across three states, with chair Ronald Sackville (Sydney) and Dr Rhonda Galbally (Melbourne) tuning in virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions.