Bystanders are those people who witness an event such as discrimination and bullying. Bystanders have a choice: to stand by and watch; or to stand up and take steps to support the people involved. Supporting students to feel empowered to stand up as bystanders will help create a supportive and inclusive school culture.

Year level



60 minutes


In class activity

SEL Competencies


Social awareness

Relationship skills

Responsible decision-making

Learning intention

Students learn the importance of bystanders taking action in reducing bullying.

Key outcomes

By the end of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • identify activities that count as discrimination

  • understand the role of bystanders

  • identify actions that bystanders can take to support a person experiencing discrimination or bullying.

Materials needed

  • A4 paper

Mapped to

Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education

  • Examine the roles of respect, empathy, power and coercion in developing respectful relationships (AC9HP8P04)

  • Evaluate the influence of respect, empathy, power and coercion on establishing and maintaining respectful relationships (AC9HP10P04)

Australian Curriculum: General Capabilities

  • Personal and Social Capability:

    • Self-awareness

    • Self-management

    • Social awareness

    • Social management

  • Ethical Understanding:

    • Responding to ethical issues

  • Critical and Creative Thinking:

    • Reflecting

NSW PDHPE Syllabus

  • Investigates effective strategies to promote inclusivity, equality and respectful relationships (PD4-3)

  • Analyses factors and strategies that enhance inclusivity, equality and respectful relationships (PD5-3)

Victorian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education

  • Investigate the benefits of relationships and examine their impact on their own and others’ health and wellbeing (VCHPEP127)

  • Investigate how empathy and ethical decision-making contribute to respectful relationships (VCHPEP146)

Show details

Activity 1

Understanding bystanders

15 minutes

  1. Explain to students that there are many situations where they may witness discrimination or bullying. Bystanders have a choice: to stand by, or to take action.

  2. In pairs, ask students to discuss:

  • What activities count as discrimination (and/or bullying)?

    • e.g. unfair treatment or comments about topics including gender, disability, race, sexual orientation, religious belief

  • Where might you see discrimination or bullying?

    • e.g. in the classroom, school yard, social media

  • Who is present when discrimination occurs?

    • ans: the perpetrator/s, the person/people being targeted, and bystanders

  • Who is a bystander?

    • ans: anyone who is a witness

  • How can bystanders help when they witness discrimination?

    • e.g. explain why the action was wrong, befriend the person being discriminated against


Explain to students that bystanders play a key role in stopping discrimination, and that there are many different ways they can help.

Activity 2

Impact understanding: Bystanders

25 minutes

  1. Ask students to think of a recent example of where someone has stood up for and supported someone being bullied. Examples may be from the media, a TV show or movie, popular culture reference or novel.

  2. In pairs, students discuss their examples:

    • Why did they choose this example?

    • How did the bystander stand up and take action?

    • What are the similarities and differences in the examples chosen?

  3. Combine two pairs to form a larger group. Students discuss:

    • Why is it important for bystanders to intervene when they witness bullying behaviour or discrimination?

      • e.g. to support the person experiencing the bullying, to make it clear that the actions are not okay

    • What is something you could do if you witnessed bullying behaviour?

      • e.g. tell a teacher, support the person experiencing bullying

    • How do you think the person the bystander supported would have felt, and why?

      • e.g. supported, because they know they have an ally

Activity 3

Multiply and merge: Supportive bystanders

20 minutes

  1. Hand out the sheets of blank A4 paper. Ask each student to cut or tear it into four slips.

  2. Individually: Each student is to write down four things (one idea per slip) that they could do or say to support someone experiencing bullying or discrimination, either in person or through the use of technology.

  3. In pairs: Each student finds a partner. They share their four ideas with each other and then negotiate to reduce their ideas to the ‘best four’.

  4. In fours: Each pair then joins up with the other pair. Both pairs share their ‘best four’ ideas and negotiate to reduce their combined eight ideas to a new ‘best four’.

  5. Using their ‘final four’, ask students to discuss any obstacles or blockers that might get in their way if they decided to use their suggested strategies in a real-life situation.

  6. As a class, discuss that there are lots of different ways we can help someone, but the best way depends on what we are comfortable with. It's important to make sure we never act in a way that puts us or others in danger or at risk of harm. Prompts for discussion:

    • Concern for physical safety

    • Not knowing the person

    • No one around to support.


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