As Lisa tells it, a new girl arrived at school at the beginning of Year 9. “My dad always taught me that if somebody new arrives, you always go and look after them, and make sure they’re okay. I did with this girl, but suddenly, after about a month, she just turned on me. Her boyfriend decided he liked me, although I had no idea who he was. Bullies rarely have a very good reason for doing what they do. They pick on others to feel better about themselves.”
By Year 10, several of her girlfriends had left school, so without a good support base, she was left further exposed to the bullying. The dynamics of the schoolyard changed. “There were a couple of occasions where I was the girl in the centre, with every other kid in the playground calling out, ‘Fight, fight, fight!’ ”
On one occasion, she went to a Sherbet concert and a girl punched her “fair and square with a right hook”. She came home from the concert with a “massive” black eye. “I didn’t know how to stand up for myself,” Lisa says, regretfully. “I just wanted to disappear.”
Lisa, who had always been a good student, lost focus. “You don’t want to be the first one to put your hand up when you know the answer to the question in class, you don’t want to stand out, you don’t want to shine because that can be threatening to the class bully, so I just pulled back in every area,” she says.
As a consequence, she managed to complete her Higher School Certificate, but it was an “okay pass that wasn’t anything to write home about”, she admits.
In many ways, it was the “okay pass”, rather than the bullying, that has driven Lisa’s adult life. “I was whipping myself that I hadn’t tried harder. And I think there was a part of me that said, right, I’ve got to make up for it.”
Lisa had decided she wanted to get into the media and that television was her first love, inspired by Brian Henderson reading the six o’clock news and Mike Willesee’s A Current Affair.
On becoming a journalist, Lisa says, she decided she had to make up for the fact that she didn’t have a great HSC. “I wanted to get into the media, but I lived way out in Campbelltown, I didn’t go to private school, so I didn’t have any old school tie to fall back on and I had no contacts anywhere. So I thought I’m going to have to make up for that in sheer hard work. I put my head down and my bum up, and worked hard.”
After a stint on a secretarial course, she won a coveted job as Girl Friday on Dolly magazine. Two years later, she was appointed the editor at age 21. You could say she made up for it in record time.
The awareness of bullying today is so huge (and rightly so) but it wasn’t back then which is why she suffered in silence like so many bullying victims do. Lisa was also very keen to insist that the fact she has become successful should not in any way be used an excuse by bullies to justify or diminish the impact of their horrendous actions.
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