Take a quick glance at this year’s ChillOut Festival guide and one charity pops up as one of the main fundraisers — anti-bullying crusaders The Alannah and Madeline Foundation.

It’s thought bullying affects around one student in every four in Australia, while La Trobe University researchers have found same-sex attracted young people can be subjected to harmful levels of verbal and physical abuse.

Alannah and Madeline Foundation prevention manager Maree Stanley told the Star Observer although the Foundation’s programs cover homophobic bullying, money raised at ChillOut will enable the Foundation to work further on anti-homophobia initiatives to include in its current programs.

“It’s been a very strong and unique partnership [with ChillOut] and we at the Foundation feel very honoured that we’ve got the opportunities again,” she said.

The Foundation has just held its National Buddies week as part of the Better Buddies program which pairs young students with older students and aims to reduce bullying in schools.

In 2009 ChillOut raised $12,000 for the Foundation’s Buddies for Wildlife program, an initiative which aimed to teach primary school children to respect and care for local wildlife and each other.

“I’d have never been able to do it without their support. It’s added a whole new module on to our program,” Stanley said.

“We’ve built some really good connections and networks in the [Hepburn] community, and, of course, the values [in Better Buddies] are important for all walks of life because it’s about friendliness, respect, responsibility, valuing difference and including others.”

Over the last 13 years, ChillOut has donated around $150,000 to not-for-profit organisations in the Hepburn Shire including the local fire brigades and hospital.

This year money raised will go to the anti-cyberbullying e-Smart program, which is in the process of being rolled out in Victorian schools.

Last year the Victorian Government announced it would deliver $10.6 million to aid the roll-out. Stanley said additional money raised will allow other non-government schools, not eligible for the program, to pick it up.

“We’re talking about helping schools and their students and their teachers and their parents understand where their responsibilities lie, because it’s not just during school time that things happen, especially in the cyber world — things are happening 24/7,” Stanley said.

“We say if a student’s wellbeing is being affected, then the school and the school community need to know about it and work towards improving it.”

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