Addressing Abuse In Sport Needs More Than Individual CourageKoffels
Are your children safe in the hands of others when engaging in Sport?
Historically Australia has been a “Sporting Nation” encouraging the involvement of its children and youth in sport from a very young age. Australia idolises its “sporting greats”, who regularly receive accolades far outweigh those of its scientists and academics.
It has taken a COVID pandemic for our Nation to recognise the value and achievements of our Australian medical and scientific community.
“Good parenting” and Sport are seen to go hand-in-hand.
Sport is viewed as central to the health, balance and overall welfare of Australian children and youth.
Current childhood obesity rates in Australia are ever-increasing. In 2017–18, an estimated 1 in 4 (25%) children and adolescents aged 2–17 were overweight or obese.(ABS 2018).
Teenage suicide rates are increasing alongside poor physical health in Australia. In 2019, 384 Australian young people took their own lives. 96 deaths by suicide occurred among children and adolescents. Deaths by suicide represented 40% of all deaths in young people aged 15–17.
Along with a good diet, engagement in sport is viewed as crucial to our attack on childhood obesity and mental health.
The question remains, however, “Are Children Safe from Abuse in Sport?”
In recent times, Sports Integrity Australia has come under attack due to alarming rates of abuse in sports such as gymnastics and swimming. Sexual, emotional and physical abuse of our elite gymnasts has brought the “elephant out of the cupboard” when discussing abuse in the sporting arena.
Abuse in Swimming has recently hit the headlines. Shortly before the Olympic swimming trials, abuse allegations of Olympic hopeful Maddie Groves have opened a potential floodgate of claims of abuse in swimming dating back some decades.
Head of Swimming Australia, former Olympic Gold medallist Keiron Perkins, alongside CEO Alex Baumann, has responded by expressing concern and have advised that all allegations will be taken seriously and fully investigated.
Swimming Australia faced increasing pressure amid calls for an independent investigation of Grove’s allegations and other swimmers with similar experiences of abuse. Dual Olympic Silver medallist Groves exposed her allegations via social media and withdrew from the Olympic swimming trials.
Chris Ronalds SC, a leading Discrimination Barrister who was instrumental in formulating discrimination legislation in Australia during the 1980s, has been appointed by Swimming Australia to Head a Panel tasked with investigating the extent of abuse within Swimming in Australia.
Professional and Amateur Sporting organisations in Australia face increasing pressure amid these allegations of abuse and calls for investigations.
The courage of Maddie Groves, and fellow dual gold medallist swimmer, Emily Seebohm may produce a “ripple effect”, similar to that which followed abuse survivor Grace Tame being named “Australian of the Year”. The courage of our sporting elite may provide a much-needed impetus for all victims of abuse in sport to come forward and tell their stories. The Courage for innocent victims of abuse in sport, to “call out” unacceptable behaviour at both amateur and elite levels of Sport.
Koffels has extensive experience in representing victims of abuse in sport at both elite and amateur levels. Our experience has highlighted the need for educational and sporting bodies to implement measures to investigate, address and ameliorate abuse of our Australian children and youth across all sporting and educational domains.
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