It’s every parent’s worst fear and can quickly become a child’s living nightmare. When it comes to bullying, is there anything we can do? Donna-Leigh Perfect and Michael Bennett say there is.
There’s no denying that bullying is a serious issue in our community – it feels like a monster that grows bigger, more pervasive and even deadlier every day. That’s why the anti-bullying “Dream Guards” are just as serious about helping reduce the problem – one song and clever acronym at a time.
Gold Coast-based Donna-Leigh and her partner Michael have taken on the big task of educating kids about resilience and confidence, with performances and inspirational talks that combine personal experience with movement, life skills and self-reflection.
“Our programs are tailored to different age groups, but they all share the same messages,” says Donna-Leigh, who was a victim of bullying herself. “We want to teach them that with self-confidence, awareness and the right tools, bullying can end with them.”
Donna-Leigh combines her experience as a Lifeline Crisis Telephone Counsellor and her training in suicide prevention and youth mental health with her qualifications in nutrition and personal training to present a holistic approach to combating bullying. Michael has put his background in professional comedy and entertainment to good use, donning costumes and rainbow socks to get the message across – and the response has been overwhelming.
“We often have kids come up after the show to thank us for inspiring them to believe in themselves,” says Donna-Leigh. “One little boy asked us ‘How do you do it?’ and I thought he meant the magic tricks in the show. What he was really asking was, ‘How do you talk about the sad things in your life without feeling sad?’
“He was at a school for disengaged kids, so he came from a pretty tough background. He then told us that our performance had helped him look at things in a different way and it was just one of those moments that reaffirmed what we’re doing.”
Just some of the many skills and information the programs cover includes defining the different forms of bullying, self-talk and positive affirmation, nutrition and exercise, the benefits of talking and the different support networks available – like Kids Helpline, Headspace and Lifeline. The duo currently offers anti-bullying shows for primary school students as well as inspirational seminars for teenagers and adults and are currently formulating a program that will be integrated within the school system.
Donna-Leigh and Michael’s ‘P.E.A.C.E’ strategy isn’t just targeted to victims of bullying, but can also be turned around to help address a bully’s behaviour and make them question their choices. Genius!
Protect yourself and be powerful. Stand tall with your shoulders back and face issues head-on.
Escape the situation. You have the power within to not accept people’s verbal abuse, both online and offline. Log off, walk away.
Armour yourself up. You have the power to let what you want into your circle – anything you don’t want can bounce off your armour
Create strong and safe friendships with people who show you kindness and respect.
Express your emotions. If you’re feeling sad or see someone who’s being bullied, tell an adult what is going on.
Words // Anastasia White