Racist bullying

​​​​Our schools are committed to ensuring students from all backgrounds feel safe and connected at school and are able to achieve their best. ​

Racist bu​llying 

Racist bullying occurs when someone is belittled, mocked, intimidated or shamed because of their: 

  • physical appearance
  • ethnic background 
  • religious or cultural practices
  • the way they talk or dress.

Racist bullying can range from casual but hurtful remarks, to deliberate physical and verbal attacks. 

Unfortunately, racist bullying continues to occur in our school communities.​

A 2014 Australian study found that over: 

  • one third of students reported direct experiences of racism at school at least once a month
  • one fifth of students experienced at least one form of direct racism every day. The most common experience was being told they ‘didn’t belong in Australia’ by another student
  • two thirds of students reported seeing another student being called names or being teased because of their cultural background.

Impacts of racist bullying

Racist bullying can impact the:

  • student experiencing racist bullying and their sense of belonging to the school community
  • students witnessing this form of bullying
  • parents and families of children who are experiencing racist bullying 
  • wider school community and school culture.

At an individual level, racist bullying can have long-term negative effects on: 

  • students’ physical and mental health 
  • school attendance 
  • educational attainment.

Preventin​​​​g racist bullying 

For all students to feel connected, protected and respected, schools need to build a culture that is:

  • inclusive
  • values diversity
  • does not tolerate racist bullying.

A whole school approach is considered best practice when addressing any form of bullying .. This approach involves school staff, parents and students working together. It includes addressing school policies, culture and classroom practice.

A whole school approach can be achieved through: 

  • Engaged leadership
  • A shared and visible commitment by all members of the school community  
  • Recognising that bullying prevention needs ongoing effort 
  • Collaboration and engagement with the whole school community 
  • Adopting a multi-faceted approach rather than a standalone approach or a single strategy 
  • Implementing comprehensive and evidence-based strategies 
  • Professional development for staff to build their capacity to:
    create an inclusive classroom environment
    build the skills and knowledge to respond appropriately to racist bullying 
  • School policy and practices that clearly name and address racist bullying 
  • Developing a specific anti-racism policy to support the school’s bullying prevention policy

Departmen​t resources and supports 

The following resources support schools to identify and prevent racist bullying and promote inclusion:

All schools are required to have a bullying prevention policy.

Building a positive school climate is a key element of the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes priority: positive climate for learning.

We offer a range of supports for Koorie students who may be experiencing racist bullying, including Koorie Education Support Officers.

Respectful Relationships supports schools and early childhood settings to promote and model respect, positive attitudes and behaviours. It teaches our children how to build healthy relationships, resilience and confidence.

School-wide positive behaviour support is a whole-school framework which provides school professionals with an approach to promote improved behaviour at their school. See: School-wide positive behaviour support   ​

External​ resources and supports 

VicHealth’s range of tools and resources support a whole of school approach to promoting diversity and preventing racist bullying in schools.

Additional support for Koorie students can be provided by the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated.

Find information on supporting students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Foundation House supports schools in their work with students and families from refugee backgrounds.

Calmer Classrooms is a valuable resource, commissioned by the Child Safety Commissioner, to support students from a refugee background who may have experienced trauma.

The Centre for Multicultural Youth​ offers a range of supports including professional development.


​This page references:

  • Priest N, Perry R, Paradies Y, Ferdinand A and Kelaher M. (2014) Experiences of Racism, Racial/Ethnic Attitudes, Motivated Fairness and Mental Health Outcomes among Primary and Secondary School Students. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. In press. 
  • Vic Health (2014) -  Racism and its links to young people’s health factsheet
  • Bullying. No Way - What works?