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Why Pink Shirt Day matters

Illustrations by Kristi Haldane.

New Zealand.

A country known for its landscapes, nature, sporting and welcoming communities. We are ranked in the top 10 most beautiful countries in the world, and even in the top 10 friendliest countries.

But we are also ranked in the top 10 countries with shockingly high bullying and suicide rates.

In a recent survey conducted by Victoria University of Wellington, 94 percent of schools had witnessed bullying amongst its students. Those are some of the highest rates in the world.

But we are working to change that.

Every year, the world comes together to celebrate Pink Shirt Day – an initiative in which we work together to stop bullying by celebrating our differences, embracing diversity and promoting a sense of community.

It is important to remember that bullying and harassment aren’t issues exclusive to children – people of all ages experience bullying in some way, shape or form, whether it’s at schools, universities, households, or even workplaces.

The aim of this initiative is to not only spread awareness of New Zealand’s bullying issue, but to call to action.

Here’s how you can get involved.

On Friday, the 18th of May, wear a pink shirt to show your support for the cause. On all three AUT campuses, there will be stalls to visit and activities to take part in, from morning to early afternoon.

I believe that bullying is something we should be talking about all year round, and events such as Pink Shirt Day allow communities to vocalise their support for each other and campaign to spark a conversation about bullying and harassment.

Personally, bullying has been something that I have both experienced and, unfortunately, taken part in. When I was younger, I was bullied for my weight and ethnicity, and as a result, I took out my anger and frustration on others through verbal abuse. I hate to admit to having been a part of the problem but, thankfully, I am past that stage now, and I’ve learnt how to channel those frustrations into more creative outlets, such as art, music, literature and, as cliché as it sounds, helping others overcome what I did.

It isn’t always as easy as getting up and getting over your issues – it’s okay to ask for help.

I identify with the rainbow community, and although it is no surprise that LGBTQ+ communities have often been targets of bullying, I am privileged enough to have not experienced harassment in regards to my sexuality. However, I know people who haven’t been as fortunate as myself. I have always stood up for and fought for people in similar situations, and Pink Shirt Day helps to serve as a reminder to raise our voices for those who can’t.

We must raise our voices for everyone – regardless of age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability or cultural background.

So join us on Friday, the 18th of May, and let’s use our voices to Speak Up and Stand Together to Stop Bullying.

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