Department program

I have your back

Use the hashtag #ihaveyourback​While it can be hard to see someone being bullied in person or online, it’s even harder to be the person being bullied.

We can all do something to help. We can all be upstanders.

An upstander is a person who speaks or acts in support of an individual or cause, particularly someone who intervenes on behalf of a person being bullied.

The Department has come together with Melbourne Football Club, and students from Victorian government schools to send an important message about bullying. The message is: ‘I have your back’.

While it can seem daunting, there are safe ways to be an upstander, online and face-to-face.

Being an upstander

Watch Melbourne Football Club player Max Gawn and students from Malvern Central School talk about being an upstander and the ways we can all come together to take action against bullying:

Upstanders are the real defenders

Watch Melbourne Football Club player Max Gawn talk about how to be an upstander:

Cyber Bullying

Melbourne Football Club players Jack Viney, Max Gawn and Lauren Pearce along with students from Buckley Park College share effective ways to address cyberbullying and be an upstander online.


Racist Bullying

Melbourne Football Club players Nathan Jones, Neville Jetta and Aliesha Newman along with the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc. (VAEAI) and students from Albert Park College show you how to stand up to racist bullying.

This video was filmed prior to coronavirus (COVID-19) physical distancing requirements.

How can you have someone’s back?

There are lots of ways you can have someone’s back and be an upstander. If you know someone is being bullied, you can:

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Be a friend to the person being bullied

Let the person being bullied know that you’re there for them. Let them know that you’ve noticed the bullying and you’ve got their back whenever they need it.       


Shift the focus

Try to interrupt the bullying - ask the person who is being bullied for their help with something, like an assignment, or invite them to sit with you.       

If you’re friends with the person doing the bullying, try to divert their attention from the person they’re bullying. Try asking if they can help you out with a problem.       


Leave the situation, and then act

Sometimes it’s best to walk away and think about what you can do to help - especially if you feel unsafe. The bullying will probably last longer if there’s an audience, even if no one else is joining in directly.        


Call the person out

Speaking up while the bullying is happening can be scary, but it can make a big difference. If you feel safe, step in and call the person out on their bullying behaviour. Be direct, calm and confident, and let them know that their behaviour isn’t okay. Try not to call them a bully but tell them that what they are saying and doing isn’t okay.        

It can help to have some backup, so chat to a close friend beforehand and try to get their support.       


Ask for help

Support the person who is being bullied to ask for help. Offer to go with them to ask for help, or point them towards some useful info. If the bullying is happening online, you can help them to block and report the person who is bullying them or help them to find out how to do this.       

It might be time to take things further if the bullying is getting out of hand and you’re worried about the person’s safety. You may need to report the bullying to a trusted adult such as a teacher, school counsellor or parent.       


If you see bullying happening online, you can:

The same rule applies online. Sharing or ‘liking’ bullying posts can make things worse for the person being bullied. Instead, remove yourself from the situation and say something to the person who’s doing the bullying later on. You can do this via a message if speaking face-to-face isn’t your thing.       

If you know someone is being bullied online, a good place to get help is the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.      

Reporting cyber bullying really easy:       

  1. Make a report to the social media company
  2. Collect evidence
  3. Make a report to the eSafety Commissioner.

All the information you need is here: Report Cyberbullying.        


Is being an upstander the same as dobbing?

No. Being an upstander isn’t the same as dobbing. Dobbing is when you deliberately try to get someone into trouble. Being an upstander, and having someone’s back, is about doing something to help someone who is being bullied even if that means telling a teacher or another trusted adult.

Why should you have someone’s back?

There are lots of good reasons why it’s good to have someone else’s back. Not only will you be supporting someone, but you will also be a role model to others.

Having someone’s back can make a real difference

As hard as it can be, when someone stands up to bullying behaviour, it will often stop it right away.       

If you’re worried about being the first one to step in, you could talk to a trusted friend and check whether you have their support.        

By taking the lead, you’ll make it easier for everyone else to be an upstander, too.     


Bullying can be really harmful

For the person being bullied, the effects can include feelings of confusion, rejection, stress, fear, shame or embarrassment.        

Bullying can even cause anxiety, depression or physical illness.        


If you’re scared, imagine how the person being bullied feels!

It’s normal to feel scared about stepping in. But try to imagine what it’s like to be the person who’s being bullied and how much better it will be for them if you step in.        

If you’re not comfortable stepping in when the bullying is happening, you could contact the person being bullied later and let them know you’ve got their back.       


You’d do it for a friend

Sometimes, when we’ve got a tough job on our hands, we start making excuses. But, no matter which way we try to spin it, bullying is always wrong and never fair. If you find yourself making excuses for the bullying, try to imagine how you’d feel if your best friend was being treated that way.        


Stepping in might even help a friend

Being a good friend and an upstander sometimes means pulling your friends up if they’re bullying someone else. This can be pretty tricky, but just because someone is your friend, it doesn’t mean they can bully others.     

It’s also normal to be concerned about a friend who is bullying someone else. Their behaviour could be a sign that they’re not in a good place. If you’re not comfortable speaking to them about it face-to-face, send a message to let them know you’re worried about them.       


Source: Reach Out

Need some help?

If you or someone you know needs a hand, try the Kids Helpline. It's Australia’s only free 24 hours, seven days a week phone and online counselling service for children and young people, aged 5 to 25. Visit the Kids Helpline website or call 1800 55 1800.