Child Safe Sport Case Study
Gymnastics Victoria CEO, Jamie Parsons, outlined his organisation’s approach to the development and implementation of improved child safe standards in line with new Standards developed by the State Government of Victoria. As part of a three-phase project, Gymnastics Victoria has considered initiatives not only to keep children physically safe and prevent abuse, but to also consider the health and wellbeing of children engaged in their sport.
Gymnastics Victoria (GV) has over 700,000 participants engaged with their clubs and programs across the state. Of their 60,000 members more than 95% of current registered members are under the age of 16.
In response to the Victorian Child Safe Standards, Gymnastics Victoria established a Child Protection Working Group, incorporating members of staff, clubs and the Board of GV. The Working Group meets regularly and is responsible for the development, implementation and review of policies and programs related to child safety.
In addition to the support provided by the GV Board, their Governance Subcommittee was used to review the legal requirements and ensure policies adhere to the necessary standards.
The GV Board, subcommittees and Working Group have established that a key outcome of GV’s response to the Standards will be that any policy or program addressing child safe environments would also incorporate the health and wellbeing children involved in the sport.
There are several components of the project that form part of GVs approach to the new Child Safe Standards including:
-A Self-Evaluation Tool – Clubs will be able to use this to undertake a self-assessment of their facilities, practices and current policies.
-An Online Course – Addressing child protection and available for all coaches’, judges, committee, owners, technical committee, state team coaches and GV staff. It includes all the key standards and the specific requirements for the sport.
-Positive Coaching Process – A process and partnership to embed a coaching culture that is positive and supports the health and wellbeing of athletes.
-Communication – A letter to every coach and judge in Victoria about the Standards, to ensure they understand how and why these standards have been developed and will be applied.
-Working with Children Checks – Partnering with a service to ensure WWCC’s are valid on a weekly basis.
-GV Child Protection Officer - Employing a part-time child protection officer to provide clubs with assistance, manage internal compliance and undertake reviews.
After the establishment of the working group, Gymnastics Victoria engaged a legal firm to review their current child safety, membership and member protection policies to ensure they are child safe and child friendly. This review was also used to identify gaps to be addressed by the organisation.
Phases of Implementation
Gymnastics Victoria identified that the implementation of any new or amended strategies would need to be carefully phased into the sport to ensure buy in and adherence to the new Child Safe Standards. The phases of implementation included:
- Communication to clubs and stakeholders about the Standards
- Establishing a catch cry or general statement of intention around these policies – i.e. “Gymnastics is Child Friendly Organisation”;
- Phase One
- Review current systems, policies and processes,
- Ensure the website and communication streams are accessible and able to update the members,
- Review the current system to ensure everyone has a Working with Children Check;
- Phase Two
- Develop the online course,
- Create information materials,
- Update members on whom they should call for information and assistance,
- Employment of a child protection officer
- Develop a best practice checklist for employment of staff (at both club and state level)
- Phase Three
- Ongoing communication,
- Review of policies and their application within a ‘real club’ environment
- Monitoring and refining of policies,
- Development of additional policies (addressing competition ages & gender).
The process for Gymnastics Victoria is ongoing and continues to focus on enhancing children’s wellbeing overall. CEO Jamie Parsons noted the following key learnings experience by GV to date:
- Time –The process can take time and resources;
- Information – Information specific to child safe environments can at times be difficult to obtain and customise to a sporting context. For GV this related to appropriate physical contact with children when assisting with skill development, and communication via social media. These areas have numerous exceptions and are a challenge to ‘legislate’.
Finance – Additional budget allocations were required for legal assistance and an additional staff member;
Communication and Feedback – Multiple communication streams are required to distribute information about the Standards, ensure it is understood and accepted;
This process has provided GV with the opportunity to undertake a full review of their policies and systems in relation to providing child safe environments. Through their key principal of health and wellbeing, the update to policies and implementation of new programs should work to enhance the club environment, making it safer for all children who participate in the sport.
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