Don’t stand by – step up!

Intervening when you see or hear something problematic can seem daunting, or simply impossible!

In this short, light-hearted video featuring Monash students, you’ll learn how to:

  • overcome barriers and step up when you notice a situation that doesn’t feel right, and
  • use evidence-based active bystander strategies to intervene.

After watching the video, complete our short quiz to see if you can correctly identify the key points.

Becoming an active bystander

To be an active bystander, you need to notice what’s happening around you, identify if there is a problem with the situation, and take action.

1. Notice the event

Be present and pay attention to what is happening around you.

  • What do you hear?
  • What do you see?
  • What is the tone of the situation?
  • What is their body language?

2. Identify if there is a problem

Recognise if there is a problem with the behaviour.

  • Is it inappropriate?
  • Does anyone involved seem uncomfortable with the situation?
  • Is there harassment or abuse?
  • Is it violent?

3. Assume responsibility

Take personal responsibility by acting even if:

  • other bystanders are present
  • you feel uncertain
  • it doesn’t appear urgent to others
  • you think someone else might do a better job of intervening.

Print out our bystander action poster (pdf, 0.19 mb) or prepare an intervention strategy by completing our active bystander plan (pdf, 0.03 mb).

Intervention strategies

There are many ways you can intervene. You could speak directly to the person who is acting disrespectfully, diffuse the situation by distracting the parties, or support the person(s) who is affected by the behaviour.

Be direct

As long as it’s safe to do so, you can intervene by speaking directly to the person behaving inappropriately. You could calmly disagree with the action or statement and explain why it’s important for them to stop the behaviour. When you’re speaking to the person, make sure your comments aren’t personal – only address their behaviour.

Start a conversation with the person by:

  • clarifying their meaning, for example, “What do you mean by that?”
  • applying a universal perspective, for example, “Are you talking about all women or just someone you know?”
  • making it individual, for example, “What if someone said that about someone you care about?”
  • appealing to their goodness, for example, “I know you mean it as a joke but …”
  • describing the impact of their words or behaviour, for example, “It makes me feel …”
  • using “I” statements, for example, “I disagree with that. I find it disrespectful”.

Print out our conversation starter card (pdf, 0.02 mb) so that you have these handy tips with you whenever you need them.

Distract the parties

To stop the behaviour or diffuse the situation, you can distract the parties by:

  • making a light-hearted comment
  • recruiting allies
  • using body language to show disapproval.

Delegate to the appropriate authority

If you notice a concerning situation, you should intervene where you can but sometimes it’s best to delegate to the appropriate service, person or authority:

  • police
  • Safer Community Unit
  • security
  • social media platform administrators
  • eSafety Commissioner
  • other authorities.

Responding to harassment on social media

Managing inappropriate behaviour and harassment online can be difficult, so we’ve put together an information sheet with some strategies and suggestions (pdf, 0.91 mb).