Understanding bullying: Bystander to upstander

These resources support schools to reduce bullying behaviour through development of a culture that actively promotes positive relationships and recognises the important role of the bystander.

Wise at 5

Five-year old students give their perspectives on being a follower in particular situations.

Schools can support bystanders to become upstanders by explicitly teaching and practicing effective responses.

The following activities are a series of lessons designed to be co-presented by teachers and students to small groups of students in Years 5-8. The activities will generate ideas and discussion about effective ways to address bullying behaviour.

Information about this resource

This resource supports schools to reduce bullying behaviour by supporting bystanders to become upstanders and foster development of a culture that actively promotes positive relationships.

This resource supports school staff to teach students to recognises the important role of the bystander and implement upstander responses to address bullying behaviour.

This resource addresses a need identified to provide schools and teachers with supports and resources to: 

  • implement teaching and behaviour management approaches and practices aimed at building positive behaviours and learning environments 

  • reduce the occurrence of challenging and unsafe behaviours through proactive and preventive approaches  

  • provide better options for managing challenging behaviours when they do occur. 


Professional audience

School leaders and teachers across all school settings.

This resource can be used without assistance, as a stand-alone resource and/or linked to professional learning. Optional support is available through the anti-bullying posters and bystander to upstander activities.

Student audience

All students P-12.

When to use

When schools are seeking to actively promote positive relationships and recognises the important role of the bystander in bullying situations.


Can be used at any time in the school year.

System priorities and/or needs

This resource aligns with:

  • the Premier’s Priorities to improve outcomes in literacy and numeracy and HSC attainment
  • Our Plan for NSW Public Education’s direction and priorities of strengthening student wellbeing and development and advancing equitable outcomes, opportunities and experiences
  • need identified by Delivery Support, particularly Behaviour Specialists, to build in teacher capacity in understanding and addressing bullying.

School Excellence Framework

  • Learning domain – Wellbeing (Caring for students, A planned approach to wellbeing, Individual learning needs, Behaviour)
  • Leading domain: Educational leadership (Instructional leadership, High expectations culture, Community engagement) and School planning, implementation and reporting (Continuous improvement, School plan, Annual report)
  • Teaching domain: Effective classroom practice (Classroom management).  

Relevant frameworks

Existing resources


Consulted with: The information in this resource was developed as part of the NSW Government’s Anti-Bullying Strategy (2017-2020) in consultation with world-leading academic expert advisors Professor Donna Cross, Professor Rosemary Johnston, and Professor Ian Hickie. The Advocate for Children and Young People assisted with consultation with students.

The Department partnered with the NSW Association of Independent Schools, Catholic Schools NSW, eSafety Commissioner, Bullying No Way!, and the Kids Helpline in consultation with principal and parent groups to create an evidence-based resource package for students, teachers, parents and carers to identify, prevent and respond effectively to student bullying behaviours.

Professor Donna Cross, Professor Rosemary Johnston, and Professor Ian Hickie reviewed and endorsed all the materials for the website.

Reviewed by: Behaviour Services

Last updated: December 2023 

Review date: December 2024

Australia’s Safe and Supportive School Communities Working Group. (2015). A review of literature (2010–2014) on student bullying. https://bullyingnoway.gov.au/understanding-bullying/bullying-research

Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation. (2017). Anti-bullying interventions in schools - what works? Literature review. Department of Education. https://education.nsw.gov.au/about-us/educational-data/cese/publications/literature-reviews/anti-bullying-interventions-in-schools

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  • Student management and wellbeing


  • All school-based staff
  • Student management and wellbeing
  • Teaching, Learning and Student Wellbeing
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  • Teaching, Learning and Student Wellbeing
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