(Daily Post. By Dana Kinita, Photo Stephen Parker) His T-shirt is recognisable in most Rotorua schools but Warren Tumarae wants people to know that underneath there’s a fierce passion to stop bullying.
Maybe it’s because he was bullied himself growing up, but the Rotorua co-ordinator of Bully Free Bro says there is a serious message behind the fun and engaging activities it hosts for young people.
It has hosted several free events throughout the city, visited schools, held sports competitions and hosted international guest speakers to talk to the youth.
The programme is Government-funded and was developed by Te Waiariki Purea Trust staff after research into bullying. It identified the need for positive messaging..
Bully Free Bro is nearly a year old and its main purpose is to address the issue at a community level.
Mr Tumarae said he knew of several cases where children were being victimised on a daily basis.
Extreme cases had led to suicide and self harm.
“We have one kid whose mother is on P and she went to report it to a counsellor who then told other teachers and it eventually got out,” Mr Tumarae said.
She became stigmatised, which is a form of bullying, and is wanting to leave school. I went through the same thing. My parents were on drugs, and kids would say, ‘Your mum and dad were druggies, you’re a druggie.’ I avoided school for three months.”
Being involved in rugby helped him return to school and build up a defence against the taunts. He said there were always underlying issues why bullies acted out and it often involved what was happening in their home lives.
“It’s not something we can fix overnight but we are doing this because we want to have an effect on a large scale.
“This first year has been about engaging with every level of the community – to say that we’re not wanting anything but we’re here to help.”
Mr Tumarae hoped to have a stronger relationship with schools and that it wasn’t about finger pointing.
“We’ve had concerned parents contact us and I’ve rung the school to talk and they’ve blown me up over the phone. A lot of schools think that we are stepping on their toes but we’re just wanting to help, the parents are coming to us because they’ve had no success through the schools.”
Mr Tumarae is hoping this year Bully Free Bro can concentrate on continuing to engage with young people and push its message that bullying isn’t to be tolerated.