Sports ‘should unite’ on child safety

The child abuse royal commission is considering a recommendation that all sports come together and develop a common approach to child protection.


On Wednesday the commission heard from a panel of sports executives on current policies and procedures in their respective organisations.

Martin Stillman, CEO of Little Athletics Australia said his organisation had engaged Bravehearts in 2013 to help develop and implement an education program to raise awareness of child safety issues.

It had also distributed materials for children.

Up to 100,000 children between the ages of 4 and 15 participate in Little Athletics track and field events run by 540 clubs across the country and some transition to Athletics Australia.

Both organisations work co-operatively, Mr Stillman said.

Commission chair Peter McClellan said while many organisations had practices and policies relating to the relationship between children and supervisors, not all parents had access to the information.

He said it might be time for sports organisations to come together and develop a common approach “so that each of your organisations can play a part in educating the whole community through the parents”.

Sport was a critical factor in Australian family life and even better placed than school to deliver the message, he said.

“We might have to think about recommendations that suggest that all of you (the panel) and others come together to try and develop an approach which is common across all sports engaging with children.”

Justice McClellan asked Mr Stillman and others on the panel to put pressure on governments to introduce a national working with children check.

During the two-week hearing he has mentioned several times the frustration of commissioners that a recommendation made last August for a national approach to the issue had been ignored.

On Wednesday he told Mr Stillman and panel members – executives from Surf Life Saving Australia, Netball Australia and Cricket Australia – the commission would encourage them all “to get ahead of the game”.

He has delivered the same message to the Australian Olympic Committee and the Australian Sports Commission.

The hearing into sports institutions and their handling of child sex abuse allegations concluded on Wednesday.