Community & Business

4 August, 2023

School takes stand on bullying

A LOCAL principal with a mission to eliminating the crippling effects of bullying on the school community has become the first in the region to launch the Bullyproof AMAYDA Resilience Program (APR).

By Ellie Fink

Year 8 student Indi Palmer and former Olympic boxer Jeff Horn at last week’s launch.
Year 8 student Indi Palmer and former Olympic boxer Jeff Horn at last week’s launch.

Malanda State High School, like almost every high school, has felt the impacts of bullying and a decline in mental health for several years now as grades and attendance slips more and more every year. 

Principal Gary Toshach has said “enough is enough” and has taken the next steps to finding the solution through the APR. 

The ARP is a unique program that takes a very deep probe into the underlying problems of bullying and mental health and addresses them in a holistic way, with the overarching principle of achieving the best outcome for everyone – including the perpetrator.

“In all schools, the mental wellbeing of students is absolutely critical and one of the major impacts on mental health is the safety and the process in which schools are looking after kids dealing with conflict,” Mr Toshach said. 

“Malanda High doesn’t have a lot of major conflict, in fact we have a few only minor incidents to deal with however when you have 600 adolescents in one school, there are occasions where kids just aren’t nice to each other.

“Those minor arguments and skirmishes really do affect kids and then it affects their attendance because they don’t want to come to school where they are not feeling safe.” 

To launch the program, Bullyproof Australia ambassador and former Olympic boxer Jeff Horn visited the school and spoke to students, staff and parents about the program and about his experience with bullying. 

Although a tough Olympic boxer, Mr Horn opened up to students about being bullied as a kid and how regardless of how tough it was being an athlete, fighting against bullies and battling mental health was harder.

“Jeff also has a history in primary school teaching and he is the absolute opposite of what anyone would assume a boxing champion would be,” Mr Toshach said. 

“He has a love for kids and wants to share his story and bring good to kids and that why I bought him to my school.” 

Teachers have already begun training through the program to help give them the tools they need to help avoid and manage conflict, not only with students but other staff members. 

Students will now partake in a series of classroom lessons that will focus on changing the culture at schools and create a more ideal learning environment where kids feel safe, appreciated and happy.

“My staff are trained up and every kid at the school will participate in 10 specifically designed lessons about resilience, mental health, wellbeing as well as conflict management skills and how to deal with situations and avoiding problems,” Mr Toshach said. 

“Our kids will have a common language. They will have the knowledge of what is going on around them and how to deal with it better.

“I am hoping this culture will eliminate a lot of things that impact their anxieties and fear of kids bullying them.

“I don’t want to sit on my hands. I want to do something proactive, and I want to help build relationships between my kids and my staff in a stronger than ever before.” 

Bullyproof Australia plans to work alongside every single school in Australia to help battle bullying and mental health. To refer a school or for more information, visit


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