The internet has become an important meeting place and platform for cultural expression for First Nations young people. It's important to know how to take care of yourself and the steps you can take to protect and keep these spaces for community and connection safe.
Your rights online (cyberbullying and racial hatred)
People sometimes use online platforms to spread material that is racially hateful and harmful to you or others. It is important that you stay safe online and know your rights. You do not have to deal with online harm alone, there is support available if you are worried about something that you have seen.
Cyberbullying and Racial Bullying impacts everyone differently. The stress of bullying on social media can have a big impact on your mental health. You may experience:
- Worry or anxiety
- Trouble sleeping
- Anger, sadness, lack of energy or motivation
- Or experience negative thoughts about yourself and others.
What is cyberbullying and when is it against the law?
Cyberbullying is when someone says or does something online intentionally to make another person feel seriously hurt, scared, or humiliated. Cyberbullying can include online behaviour that targets a person because of their race.
Cyberbullies use online spaces (like social media, the internet, emails, or messages) to harm others. Some examples of cyberbullying are:
- Sending hurtful or threatening messages.
- Excluding or isolating someone online.
- Spreading rumours online.
- Sharing photos, videos, or comments without permission to make someone look bad.
- Pretending to be someone else to stalk, harass or intimidate another person.
Cyberbullying can be a serious crime and can be reported to police when someone uses a phone or the internet:
- In a menacing, harassing or offensive way. This includes scaring someone by threatening to hurt them, bothering someone repeatedly to make them feel afraid, or using technology to make someone angry or upset.
- To threaten to kill or seriously hurt someone.
- To encourage, persuade, or help another person to take their own life.
You also have the option to report cyberbullying to the eSafety Commissioner if:
- You are under 18, or you are supporting someone under 18, and the material is seriously threatening, intimidating, harassing, or humiliating.
- You are over 18 and the material is seriously harmful.
If you are not sure whether the online behaviour is a crime or is serious enough to make a report, you can get free and confidential legal advice from Youth Law Australia to find out your options.
What is racial hatred and when is it against the law?
Racial hatred is when someone uses race, skin colour, nationality or ethnicity as a way to insult, offend, humiliate or intimidate someone else. They could use social media or online spaces to do this. If it happens online, it’s called ‘cyber-racism’.
In many cases, racial hatred is unlawful which means that if you have experienced racial hatred in a public space, you may be able to make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission to investigate what happened and help to resolve the complaint.
It is important to know that the law makes some exceptions for some behaviour done ‘reasonably and in good faith’, this includes if the comment is an expression of a personal genuine belief. These laws can be confusing. If you are unsure, you can get free and confidential legal advice from Youth Law Australia to find out your options.
What can you do if you experience cyberbullying or racial hatred?
It is important to know that you do not have to deal with cyberbullying or racial hatred alone. If you’re not sure if what someone has said is crossing the line, you can get free and confidential legal advice from Youth Law Australia to find out your rights and next steps you can take.
- There are also some immediate steps that you can take, you can:
- Report the harmful content to the online platform (social media site, game, or app).
- Collect evidence of the harmful content. You could take screenshots or print messages, posts, or emails.
- Report the other person’s account/s to the platform.
- Block the other person (it is best to collect evidence before you do this).
- Talk to someone you trust or seek counselling support.
Where can you get help?
If you are in immediate danger because someone is threatening or harassing you online, call the police on 000 (triple zero).
The following organisations can provide support or assistance with cyberbullying and racial hatred:
|Youth Law Australia (YLA)||
YLA provides free and confidential legal advice to children and young people 24 and under, anywhere in Australia, about any legal problem, including cyberbullying and racial hatred. They can help you choose your next steps.
|Phone: 1800 950 673 (Tuesday – Thursday, 10AM-4PM)
Live chat Monday – Friday, 10AM-4PM (AEST))
|Your local community legal centre||
There are many community legal centres across Australia which provide free legal advice and support.
|Find and contact your nearest centre, here.|
|The eSafety Commissioner||
The eSafety Commissioner can work with you to investigate and stop serious cyberbullying
|Use this form to report cyberbullying and cyber abuse to the eSafety Commissioner.|
|Your Local Anti-Discrimination Commission||
Each State/Territory has an Anti-Discrimination body that investigates complaints about racial discrimination. Their services are free.
|Find and contact your local Anti-Discrimination body, here (under ‘States and Territories’).|
|The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)||
The AHRC has a free complaint-handling service that can investigate complaints of cyber-racism and racial hatred, anywhere in Australia. Find out more about making a complaint.
|1300 656 419 option 2 (Monday – Friday, 10AM – 1:30PM (AEST)) or download a complaint form.|
How to look after your Social and Emotional Wellbeing
It is important to look after yourself as well and focus on strong spirit, strong culture, strong body, strong identity, strong mind and strong relationships. Here are some ways we can be our strong and deadliest selves.
Some ways we can keep a strong mind are to eat well, sleep well, hang out with friends and family, and explore things that challenge or interest us. Not only is it important to have a strong mind, we need to rest our mind as well. To rest your mind, you can do things like, meditate, sit out on Country or do some gentle exercise or Yoga.
Having a strong mind is important because it helps us make good choices, process information, and stay resilient.
Our people have always sought strength from connection to community and family. Relationships are important and it's important to take care of them. They give us support , guidance, strength, love, and energy. Our relationships can be with friends, family, biological or chosen and can extend out to our totems and to country. Strong relationships should strengthen you. As important as it is to have strong relationships it's also important and ok to take a break from relationships that may be taking away from our strength.
To stay grounded and escape the overwhelm we need to stay connected to culture. Make sure you make time to connect with family and elders, share stories, sing, dance or paint and visit country.
Culture keeps us strong, don’t let these conversations, racism or negativity at this time take that strength away from us.