Catherine Cusack
Catherine Cusack

Key finding too simplistic: Cusack

SCHOOL communities need the power to choose their own ways of dealing with bullying issues and should be accountable for the results of those policies, Lennox Head-based MLC Catherine Cusack said yesterday.

Speaking after Deputy State Coroner Malcolm MacPherson handed down his findings into the 2008 suicide death of Kadina High student Alex Wildman, Ms Cusack said it was critical students be given a stronger voice in the ways their issues were dealt with.

Ms Cusack was part of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Children and Young People held in early 2008 and yesterday said calls for more counsellors in schools, a key inquest recommendation, was too simplistic.

Transcripts from the inquiry reveal students felt counsellors were often ineffective because the young people did not know or trust them.

“School counsellors are textbook,” one student told a hearing of the inquiry at Lismore. “You walk in, you sit down, they patronise you ... they do not actually listen. They read from the textbook, they get you out, they get the next kid in. They do not actually understand what you are going through.”

Another student told the inquiry in Lismore: “They are meant to counsel you, but they do not. They just sit there and ask you question after question after question and say, ‘All right, see you next time'. When you come back in the next day they ask you your name again. They do not even know you. It is just like classes, it is not actually helping out.”

Professor Anne Graham, of the Centre for Children and Young People at Southern Cross University, told the inquiry she was once called to help a school system develop ways of helping children having difficulties at school, only to find the system wasn't talking to the students it was trying to help.

When the school did ask the students what would help them when things got hard, they overwhelmingly responded: “A teacher that knows and likes me.”

Ms Cusack said there was a place for counsellors in schools, but teachers needed the training and the responsibility to look after the broader welfare of students.

She said it was important the State Government go ahead with a review of school counselling it promised after the 2008 inquiry.

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