Child Protection – 7 lessons for sport from the Royal Commission’s report into child abuse

A summary of the Play by the Rules Full Article is found at the link below

More information on Qld Legislative Requirements can be found below

Cairns Hockey has adopted Hockey Australia Member Protection Policy and this can be found at

Lesson 1: Listen to the voices of children and young people in your organisation. Talk with them about what makes them feel safe.

The Commission held private sessions with 408 survivors of child sexual abuse in sport and recreation settings. Significantly, the majority said the abuse occurred for up to 12 months with multiple instances of abuse in that period. In most of these cases abuses were carried out by a single male adult perpetrator in a position of power, such as an instructor, leader or coach.

Given that information there is still no typical profile of a perpetrator. The Commission noted that, similar to other institutional settings, perpetrators had diverse motivations and behaviours.

Lesson 2: Recognise that there is no ‘typical perpetrator’ or place where abuse occurs while at the same time understand that some situations are more high risk than others, for example, where a male coach regularly meets with a female athlete in obscured environments.

Understanding risk factors is very important for sports organisations. Clearly, if a club or association can identify where the risks are then they are in a much better position to prevent abuse occurring. Of the 354 victims of child sexual abuse in sport and recreation that provided information to the Commission, 37% identified grooming as a factor in the abuse.

Lesson 3: Understand your risk factors. Discuss them and write them down. Be aware of the types of relationships that exist at your club and watch out for any grooming indicators.

Interestingly, the Royal Commission identified societal and community cultures as risk factors for child sexual abuse in sport and recreation settings. This presents a real challenge to clubs and associations, particularly where cultures have been developed over long periods of time. Cultures though, are not intangible. You can see and hear a culture. The challenge is recognizing dominant negative cultures and doing something about them.

Lesson 4: Talk about culture. Identify what behaviours and words dictate and shape culture at your club. Are they a risk factor?

The Royal Commission identified different ways in which sport organisations have not kept children and young people safe. One of these are the barriers children and young people had to overcome before they were able to disclose their experiences.

Lesson 5: Create an environment and expectation that supports children and young people to regularly discuss what makes them feel uncomfortable. Give them an opportunity to practice talking! Part of that involves setting expectations for adults to regularly monitor and support the wellbeing of children and young people.

A theme that ran through much of the Royal Commission report was leadership. Leadership with respect to governance and setting culture.

There were a range of sports organisations that had inadequate child protection policies, failed to provide education around the policies and did not keep appropriate records. All this amounted to poor leadership as a risk factor for child safety.

Lesson 6: Proper governance structures and leadership that prioritizes child safety are important factors in keeping children and young people safe.

Finally, perhaps the biggest lesson of all from the Royal Commission’s report into sport and recreation is the value of the report itself and the huge amount of work that went into producing it. It’s an important document for sport. One that needs to be taken seriously at all levels. There is a wealth of research and rich learnings from the experiences of people who, unfortunately, know all too well the devastating impact that child abuse can have on individuals, their families, friends and sporting clubs. This level of work has never been done before and will never be repeated. So it deserves our attention.


Lesson 7: Read the Royal Commission final report into sport, recreation, arts, culture, community and hobby groups.




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