Inspiring Jessie turned childhood bullying into career motivation

30 Jun 2022

If there’s one message that has come through loud and clear during the Healthy Harold Hundred campaign, it’s this: no matter what a person’s age, bullying cuts deep. Whether you are bullied at school, at work or at the local sporting club, nasty put-downs, aggression and mental abuse are hurtful and harmful, and may have long-lasting repercussions. 

But we’ve been inspired by so many stories of courage too. 

Stories like this one shared by 30-year-old Jessie Smart of Merrimac who has finished the Healthy Harold Hundred in the top 15 on the fundraising leader board. 

Jessie’s experience of teenage bullying led her to eventually undertake a Bachelor of Social Welfare at Southern Cross University. She decided she wanted to be a positive influence in children’s lives, drawing on her own background to help others.

"Bullying is a huge issue within schools and continues to grow with the advancement of technology and social platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Every child has the right to an education free from bullying and torment."

High school bullying took its toll

Jessie recalls how a best friend turned against her in high school because of a misunderstanding. 

“It all started because of a boy,” Jessie says. 

“My best friend at the time accused me of ‘stealing’ her boyfriend. He was a few years older and was someone I regarded as merely a friend, as I was friends with his brother, and we went through primary school together. She misread the situation and surrounded me at school yelling and threatening me. I was a very shy and a quiet kid, so being confronted like this was something I wasn’t mentally able to handle. 

“While all of this was going on, a neighbour, who was a friend, started to hang around a bad crowd of people and was getting into unsafe activities. I decided to pull away from our friendship, but she saw this as me thinking I was better than she was, and it resulted in her bullying me online as well as outside my house. We lived across the road from each other. 

“There was nowhere to hide - not at school and not at home. I dropped out of school and began to have panic attacks. It was a whole term before I was confident to return to a new school.”

Jessie says although she changed schools, her education suffered. She left school in Year 10 and worked in administration for 10 years before deciding to return to university to complete her degree in social welfare. During her studies, Jessie was part of a mentoring program for disengaged teenagers at the innovative and inclusive Arcadia College. After graduating, as the COVID pandemic took hold, she worked on the front line of the health pandemic as a welfare officer in a local crisis centre.

Jessie says she’s loved walking throughout the month of June, describing it as peaceful time to ‘quiet the noise’ and she’s raised $878 towards the overall fundraising target. 

“I’m actually sad to see the challenge end. I’ve enjoyed it and the cause is so important,” she says.

Motivated by the cause

Currently part of Triple M Gold Coast’s promotions team, Jessie says the Healthy Harold Hundred cause instantly struck a chord.

“When I heard about the challenge from the team at Triple M, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I knew I had to get involved,” Jessie explains.

“In today’s online world, young people are more isolated and removed than ever before and have no idea of the consequences of disrespectful behaviour. Understanding one’s mental health and wellbeing is something that has been lacking in our current curriculum. That is why the Life Ed respectful relationships programs are imperative.”

If you’d like to support Jessie’s final fundraising efforts in this year’s Healthy Harold Hundred, head to Jessie Smart’s fundraising page.