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How sporting clubs can protect their members from sexual abuse

How sporting clubs can protect their members from sexual abuse

Published on January 29, 2024 by Zoe Brindle and Martin SlatteryZoe Brindle and Martin Slattery

The Victorian AFL club Western Bulldogs ordered to pay $5.9m to a child sexual abuse victim (Kneale v Footscray Football Club Ltd [2023] VSC 679).

The Plaintiff was a waterboy when he was abused by club volunteer Graeme Hobbs between 1984 and 1990.

The decision is an important reminder that Sporting Clubs and Sporting Associations can be held liable for harm done to their child members by employees, coaches, and volunteers.

It is important that communities and organisations in which young people participate are aware of the risk of child sexual abuse and understand how to prevent and remove these risks from their communities.

There are a number of steps sporting associations can to do protect their members from risks of child abuse. This article outlines the steps in the National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse for 2021 to 2030 by the National Office for Child Safety.

The National Office for Child Safety has recently released the National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse for 2021 to 2030. Some of the steps recommended by the strategy include:

  1. Set up an ongoing national annual reporting framework: The reporting will engage and encourage organisations to report on their progress to create and maintain child safe cultures within their clubs.
  2. Support the provision of resources for coaches, athletes, mentors, children and young people’s education in areas focused on wellbeing, relationships, and safety, including the risk of grooming and inappropriate relationships.
  3. Increase workforce capability for preventing and responding to children with harmful sexual behaviours;
  4. Have an action plan for responding to complaints of child abuse.
  5. Improve screening and training for staff and volunteers who work with children and young people;
  6. Have publicly available and regularly reviewed child safeguarding policies, such as complaint handling processes.

The Strategy can be accessed here.

Sporting clubs and associations are valuable to every community and if they are willing to promote changes in behaviour and culture to prevent child sexual abuse, it will help members recognise and respond to warning signs that a child or young person is at risk of child sexual abuse.

The first step is awareness of these issues. The next step is prevention. Unfortunately, if organisations do not take these steps seriously, they will be liable for harm done to their members.

Carroll & O’Dea Lawyers are industry leaders in the space and are available to assist organisations in preventing and responding to these issues. Please contact Carroll & O’Dea Lawyers on 1800 059 278 or via our Contact Page.

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