Escalating violence in Australian schools, action urged

escalating violence

A recent survey conducted by the Australian Catholic University (ACU) has revealed escalating violence levels against school principals across Australia. The escalation has prompted urgent calls for action.

The study encompassing 2,300 respondents unveiled distressing statistics, with nearly half having reported experiencing or witnessing physical violence. Approximately 54% were subjected to threats.

According to the report’s author Paul Kidson, incidents range from direct attacks on school staff to confrontations with parents. Some instances reportedly involved weapons such as machetes and knives.

Interestingly, the survey highlighted regional disparities with principals in the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory facing the gravest threats.

Robyn Thorpe, the Northern Territory Principals Association president, expressed concern over the lack of adequate support in handling such situations.

“We can put the school into a lockdown, call the police, but sometimes in our communities the police aren’t on duty so you have that feeling of a bit more vulnerability” Ms Thorpe said.

Western Australia also witnessed a distressing surge in violence, with over half of principals reporting physical assaults. This has led to calls for more effective enforcement of existing policies.

The escalating violence levels have prompted schools to implement security measures, including hiring security guards and installing fences.

Verbal abuse and intimidation

Angela Falkenberg, president of the Australian Primary Principals’ Association, stressed that the issue is not confined to physical altercations. It also encompasses verbal abuse and intimidation.

However, the escalating violence is taking a toll on the mental health of school leaders, with higher rates of anxiety and depression reported among them compared to the general population.

Professor Herb Marsh, co-lead investigator of the study, highlighted a 76.5% increase in physical violence since 2011, with over half of school leaders considering early retirement.

Amidst these challenges, there are urgent calls for systemic reforms and proactive support mechanisms to ensure the safety and well-being of school leaders.

Federal Education Minister Jason Clare emphasised the government’s commitment to addressing the teacher shortage crisis and prioritising initiatives to support teacher wellbeing.

IPPE co-lead investigator and leading school well-being expert Associate Professor Theresa Dicke said despite mounting challenges, school leaders showed extraordinary dedication, commitment and commendable resilience.

“But every year we call for more to be done. There is an urgency for education ministers to prioritise responding to the data in this report” she said.

Professor Dicke called for a national summit to coordinate strategies and resources to ensure that issues facing principals are in focus.

“Otherwise many of them will act on their intention to leave and it will make achieving important policy initiatives very unlikely.”


Australian Catholic University

The Australian

ABC News

CathNews New Zealand


Additional reading

News category: Great reads, World.

Tags: , , , , ,