Principals in the Northern Territory receive an annual allowance of several hundred dollars which they can use to help alleviate the symptoms of stress.

To my way of thinking this is an irony that borders on being farcical! Possibly the biggest faux pas is the presumption that all principals are going to be stressed and need this money to support them in a way that is almost soplike.

It’s as if the Dept Of Education is saying to Principal “you are going to be stressed. That may be in some form of abuse that’s directed at you. But here, take this money and use to buy stress relief support.”

What the Northern Territory Government and the Education Department should be doing is confronting the vulnerabilities our school leaders face head on and dealing with offensive issues rather than offering some sort of salutory support and tokenistic recognition.

On many occasions over the years, principals of government schools have been abused, sometimes quite horrifically. I’m not going to elaborate incidents but am aware of quite a few and could detail them to anyone interested. My concern is that every effort seems to be made by authorities to paint these incidents as minimalistic.

This off-handed treatment leaves principals (and others) who are abused feeling themselves to be people held in low esteem with little self worth. They can quite easily come to believe that nobody is interested in the situation and that they just have to wear the consequences of abuse.

And I believe that when principles (and all those connected with education delivery) are subject to abuse, that the legal section of the Education Department should get right behind them and force the issue all the way to the law courts. Nothing of this nature should ever be covered up. Principals should not be told in effect to “suck it up”.

Abuse is rife and incidents of abuse are becoming more common place. The answer to dealing with the issue is not create yet another policy but to enforce those policies already in place. What is needed is a proactive response rather than a reactive wimpier on the part of authorities.

To be abused is not part of the duty statement of any principal or school leader.

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