Sporting codes push for child protection

A coalition of major sports including the football codes, cricket, tennis and netball are willing to join a push to get governments to introduce a national approach on child protection, a royal commission has been told.


Jo Setright, head of legal and business affairs at the Football Federation Australia, said the coalition of major professional and participation sports (COMPPS) could work to bring about reform in working-with-children checks.

The federation executive was giving evidence on Tuesday at a royal commission hearing looking at how sports clubs and institutions protect children who participate in their activities.

She said COMPPS – an advocacy group with an interest in policy – had successfully lobbied for nationally consistent legislative reform in respect to match fixing and would have a common and mutual interest in the child protection issue.

Ms Setright said as a collective COMPPS had a powerful voice and was interested in lobbying for a national approach to child protection.

A recurring theme in the two-week investigation by the commission has been difficulties sport organisations experience with different jurisdictional approaches to working-with-children checks.

On Tuesday Ms Setright was on a panel with the CEO of the Australian Sports Commission, Simon Hollingsworth, Paralympic committee executive Kate McLoughlin and Tennis Australia representative Ann West.

During evidence from Mr Hollingsworth on Tuesday, chief commissioner Peter McClellan expressed frustration at government response to a recommendation that a national child protection policy be put in place.

In a comprehensive report last August the commission identified major problems with the different jurisdictional approaches to working-with-children checks and strongly recommended a national rationalisation to ensure the safety of children.

Justice McClellan told Mr Hollingsworth it was now incumbent on organisations like his to bring pressure on governments to implement the national policy.

Mr Hollingsworth said he understood the government was considering it.

Justice McClellan: “It needs more than consideration. It needs action”.

He asked Mr Hollingsworth if he understood the urgency and pointed out the commissioners had made the policy direction clear.

Mr Hollingsworth said he would work to get the reform.

Last week Justice McClellan asked John Coates, president of the Australian Olympic Committee to use his influence to ensure there was a national approach to checking.

Mr Coates assured him that the AOC would do that.

Another issue has been the difficulties is disseminating child protection information to clubs and associations who depend on volunteers.

Most sports depend on the Play by the Rules website run by the Australian Sports Commission, which provides comprehensive information but is only accessible to those with a registered log-in and may not be reaching all those who need to know about child protection procedures.

The commission has asked the ASC to make it more accessible.