Southern Downs Regional Councillor Tracy Dobie.
Southern Downs Regional Councillor Tracy Dobie. Photo Contributed

IT STOPS HERE: Mayor confronts cruelty of cyberbullying

SHE may be the most powerful woman in our region, but Mayor Tracy Dobie says she is targeted by relentless cyberbullying attacks regarding her mental health, appearance and family.

Cr Dobie plans to use her experience to fight the scourge that is online bullying and help those who struggle with similar ferocity.

It is not only children and teenagers who stab each other with cruel words, she says , but also adults in the community who are setting a dismal example.

"This goes way beyond criticism of council, these are repeated and intentional attacks on me personally,” Cr Dobie says.

Cr Dobie says she is far from the only person targeted, as cyberbullies aim to make others feel powerless.

"It doesn't affect me, I'm a very confident person and I'm very confident in my decisions and the decisions made by council,” she says.

"This isn't going to change the way I feel about myself and the decisions I make as a councillor.”

Cr Dobie says the death of Amy "Dolly” Everett demonstrates the double standards many in the community hold when it comes to bullying.

"The very people who posted on social media about being opposed to cyberbullying are the ones who are undertaking cyberbullying in our community,” she says.

Cr Dobie says there is a small group of people targeting her, who she refused to name, but said it may come to that if the bullying does not stop.

She says she is called names and branded 'narcissistic' and there have even been bumper stickers created to ridicule her.

"They say these things in order to cause me distress, but they don't (distress me) because I see these people for what they are,” she said.

"They're jealous and they're insecure and looking to make themselves feel powerful.

"I'm doing this because I am personally being targeted by some of these people, but because of this I recognise what it must be like for others who have borne the brunt of this.”

Lobbying for legislative change is part of Cr Dobie's anti-bullying strategy, as she says there is nothing she can legally do to stop her bullies.

"At this time there is not legislation that allows someone like myself to take action,” she says.

Bonnie O'Brien, a lawyer with Gudkovs Power Settgast Lawyers in Warwick, says she supports action taken to enforce specific laws for cyberbullying, as was done through the introduction of specific choking and strangulation laws for domestic violence in recent years.

"The introduction of legislation specifically put in for that purpose will make it more well-known in the community and for police to know they can charge when there's that push to do something about it,” she says.

"Something that brings it more to the forefront wouldn't go astray.”

Ms O'Brien says the federal charge of using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend could be used to cover cyberbullying but she has never seen it done.

Cr Dobie has created an anti-bullying strategy, which is being enforced from today until March 16, the National Day of Action Against Bullying.

The council will be running a campaign with videos and public engagement.

This public engagement will include handing out flyers at shopping centres, to raise awareness in the community.

Cr Dobie says she will work with the police to enhance understanding of what constitutes bullying and what legal action can be taken.

She also plans to work with the Facebook administration team to understand how they can assist, as well as lobbying lobby the state and federal government to enforce legislative change.

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