Children’s right to be safe: conference

The president of Malta, H.E. Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, centre, with Flinders University School of Education Student Wellbeing and Prevention of Violence (SWAPv) Research Centre Professor Phillip Slee and Dr Grace Skrzypiec.

Flinders University is hosting a major conference on child and youth wellbeing, violence and bullying at the University’s Tonsley facility (13-15 July).

The event, opened by the President of Malta, Her Excellency Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, will see leading Australian and international researchers discuss student wellbeing, violence and aggression, bullying, cyberbullying and sexting.

Flinders University’s Student Wellbeing and Prevention of Violence (SWAPv) Research Centre, led by Professor Phillip Slee and Dr Grace Skrzypiec, will host the inaugural conference, which aims to improve child and adolescent well-being, promote positive mental health and find solutions to prevent violence in school and early childhood settings throughout the world.

One of Flinders’ key anti-bullying initiatives, the SWAPv program, is the flagship program for Maltese schools and is also being used in Japan, Italy and East Timor. The program has consistently been shown to significantly reduce instances of severe bullying among schoolchildren everywhere it is used.

Professor Slee, who co-authored a recent paper commissioned by the State Government, Cyberbullying, Sexting and the Law, said up to 20 per cent (463,000) of Australian children and teenagers aged 8-17 were the victims of cyber-bullying.

He said there was increasing evidence that both traditional face-to-face bullying and cyber-bullying had lasting effects on children and their families, including low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.

“By bringing together national and international experts who can share information and resources and inform fellow researchers and education specialists, we can find new ways to help promote student wellbeing and positive mental health, and prevent violence and aggression, bullying and cyber-bullying,’ said Professor Slee.

The conference is being organised in partnership with Flinders Educational Futures Research Institute, The Wellbeing and Resilience Centre (SAHMRI), headspace and Relationships Australia (SA).

It will feature more than 50 presentations from researchers around the world, including India, Japan, China, Russia, Europe, USA, Kenya and Nigeria.

Keynote speakers include:

  • Professor Carmel Cefai Director, Centre for Resilience and Socio-Emotional Health, University of Malta
  • Professor Catherine Blaya President of the International Observatory of Violence in Schools, University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, France.
  • Mr Agio Pereira Honorable Minister of State and of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Timor-Leste.
  • Mr David Kelly SAHMRI Resilience & Wellbeing Centre
  • Mr Vikki Ryall Chief Clinician at headspace Melbourne
  • Dr Jamie Lee Principal Researcher, Relationships Australia
  • Professor John Halsey Professor of Rural Education and Communities, Flinders University School of Education
    Further details about the conference can be found at
  • A special public panel event on July 14, titled ‘The Politics of Wellbeing’ and hosted by the SAHMRI Centre for Resilience and Wellbeing, will include presentations by Mrs Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, President of Malta; Special Minister of State Timor-Leste, Agio Pereira; Minister of Education and Child Development Dr Susan Close; CEO of headspace Chris Tanti; Relationships Australia principal researcher Dr Jamie Lee.
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