Tayla Harris – more than a KICK

Allen&Unwin, Australia, 2020

The social media/media furore that surrounded a photograph of AFLW player Tayla Harris is by now well known and widely discussed. Tayla Harris has chosen to document who she is, what matters to her and her experiences around this incident in her book, more than a KICK.

Aimed at teens and sub-teens, the book is written in a conversational style, easily accessible to the age group and has lots of engaging photos. The book is one that would be an excellent parent share with kids, dealing frankly with the pluses and minuses of social media.  It is as well a bold statement of female (and other) empowerment, a call to face things that challenge us as human beings of all ages and to call out and push back on bad behaviour.

What we get in the first part of the book is an image of a very normal, sportily gifted child whose energy and commitment to task as she matures are shining examples to all to pursue set goals and to work hard. Tayla then moves to the KICK and the PHOTGOGRAPH (by Michael Wilson) and all that followed, how she handled it and musings on the implications of this not just for her, but for everyone who uses social media, especially the marginalised and isolated.

There was criticism of the initial response by 7AFL to the trolling (removing the photo) and as a result a more active message was posted, highlighting Tayla’s athleticism and condemning the ‘reprehensible’ comments on the original post. A public sculpture by Terence Plowright based on the photograph was subsequently commissioned and now stands in Melbourne’s Federation Square.

One of the strengths of this book is the determination for action (not reaction). Tayla’s mother had some sage comments to make, pointing out that this wasn’t just about Tayla but affected a much wider community. She also pointed out that Tayla had good support close around her but that many people who are subjected to trolling do not have such support, and we are invited to consider the potentially dire consequences of this.

The final section of the book gives readers some tips about cyber-bullying and how to handle it – what you can actually do.

I think this book should find a home in primary and secondary school libraries, be a reference for student personal development course writers and teachers and a go-to handbook for parents wanting to guide their own children through the thorny patch that is today’s social media world .

Thanks to Allen&Unwin for providing me with a review copy.