The power of the pen. The strength of a community.
These are the weapons Lucy Barge is using in her fight against bullying.
Bullied at primary school, Lucy never felt able to speak up - her hurt further magnified by the silence and inaction of others. “Although it was hidden, it wasn’t entirely invisible, and I wish somebody was brave enough to bring it up with a responsible adult.”
Looking for a place to find refuge and comfort, Lucy turned to writing.
“It was one of the things that got me through the trauma, by escaping to a fantasy world,” the young author says.
Last year, the then 17-year-old Lucy published a book of poems called Away With Us, through Pukeko Publications. It profiled themes of mental health, bullying and healing.
While not everyone will want to publish their work, Lucy encourages others to use writing to process the emotions that come with being bullied.
“Speaking up doesn’t have to be with your own voice, it can be pen on paper, and it has helped me heal and offer closure from those who bullied me.”
It was in her final year at Timaru’s Mountainview High School that Lucy first became involved in Pink Shirt Day - empowering others to speak up when they see or experience bullying.
“While I knew of Pink Shirt Day, I didn’t see a whole lot happening in my own school or community, and then it hit me - why wasn’t I doing anything about it and what was preventing me from standing up for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves?”
Lucy set about creating a group called the Anti-Bullying Advocates and championed Pink Shirt Day as “more than just a day, but a way of life.”
The group made a series of “Upstander” videos they played at school assemblies and continued to post content on their Instagram page during lockdown, inviting other students to contact them privately for advice or support.
“I love the motto that Pink Shirt Day has about speaking up because in our Kiwi culture we hear a lot of people saying, ‘she’ll be right’. But it’s important to break that attitude because it’s not always okay and silence won’t change society.”
Lucy has since graduated from Mountainview High School, but she remains deeply connected by teaching piano there and offering her ongoing support to the Anti-Bullying Advocates, with her sister now a part of the student group.
She knows she hasn’t won the battle, but through her advocacy and her poetry promoted through her Instagram page she is using her talent with words to speak up against bullying.
“I want people to know that words do hurt, but pain can be turned into power and built into something better.”