The Royal Commission’s Report into Case Study 39 - The response of certain football (soccer) and tennis and cricket organisations to allegations of child sexual abuse, was released today.
The report follows a public hearing held in Sydney in April, where men and women shared their experience of sexual abuse as children at sporting clubs. The hearing also examined the responses of a number of sporting organisations to allegations of child sexual abuse.
During the hearing, BXA gave evidence about her sexual abuse by soccer coach BXK who allegedly raped her as a child on a number of occasions. When she was 15 she was diagnosed as HIV positive, a disease she believes she contracted from BXK.
The Commission heard that since the abuse, Football NSW has adopted several child protection policies including the Member Protection Policy and the FFA Code of Conduct. Football NSW now has Member Protection Information Officers at association and club level and also in the referee associations. A number of resources have also been created for coaches, managers, club officials, parents and children.
The Royal Commission commended Football NSW’s Child Protection Officer, Ms Michelle Hanley, for the diligence and commitment she has shown in developing child protection policies and procedures in Football NSW.
Commissioners also heard evidence from former tennis player BXJ, who alleged she was sexually abused by her tennis coach, Noel Callaghan in 1997 and 1998.
The report notes that in 1999 representatives of Tennis NSW met with BXJ and her parents about the allegations, but when the investigating solicitor asked highly personal and inappropriate questions BXJ became distressed and did not feel believed. BXJ never played tennis again.
The report notes that even though the investigating solicitor preferred BXJ’s account to that of Mr Callaghan, Tennis NSW never made BXJ or her parents aware of the investigator’s findings and Mr Callaghan continued his duties as state coach.
The Royal Commission found that in deciding to take no further action, Tennis NSW abrogated its responsibility to BXJ and transferred the burden of pursuing the complaint to her. “Tennis NSW completely disregarded BXJ’s welfare and interests” the report states. The Royal Commission also considered that it was appropriate for Tennis NSW to apologise to BXJ and was to be criticised for not informing BXJ of the outcome of its investigation at the time and for not offering her any support or counselling.
During the hearing, survivors Troy Quagliata, BXI and BXE spoke about their experience of abuse by the longstanding coach of a local cricket club in Queensland, Robert Ross in the 1980s and 1990s.
In 2014 Mr Ross was charged with a large number of child sexual abuse offences and committed suicide later that year.
The Royal Commission considers that the local cricket club and Queensland Cricket should now offer support to Mr Quagliata, BXI and BXE as well as any others who reported abuse by Mr Ross. The Royal Commission also considered Queensland Cricket should review the support it gives to local cricket clubs and ensure that that support is sufficient to enable the clubs to implement child protection policies and practices. The Royal Commission also recommended Queensland Cricket consider the development of a suspended person’s register along the lines of, for example, that implemented by Football NSW.
During the hearing, Commissioners also heard from national sporting organisations and peak bodies about their current procedures and practices in relation to child protection. One of these organisations was the Australian Sports Commission (ASC), a key driver of child protection policies in sport in Australia.
The Royal Commission considers the website ‘Play By The Rules’, which is administered in part by the ASC and which promotes child protection in sport, to be a very valuable and effective resource. It provides information, tools and free online training to assist administrators, coaches, officials, players and spectators to manage child safety issues in sport.
Read the full report.