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Child Protection in Sport

Prepared by: Christine May, Senior Research Consultant, Clearinghouse for Sport
Updated by: Liz Murphy, Senior Research Consultant, Clearinghouse for Sport
Reviewed by: Australasian Sport Information Network
Last updated: 17 May 2021
Content disclaimer: See Clearinghouse for Sport disclaimer

'Child protection' is concerned with keeping young people under the age of legal responsibility safe from abuse, discrimination, and harassment. It also involves protecting young people from those who are deemed unsuitable to be working with children, and from harmful practices.

Key messages

Duty of care

Sporting organisations have a legal and moral obligation to ensure that children are protected from physical and/or psychological harm while participating or attending their organised (and sanctioned) events and activities.


Sporting organisations are obliged to comply with the respective child protection legislation that exists in each Australian state and territory.

Member protection

Australian Government funded sporting organisations are required to have a current Member Protection Policy in place and in practice to receive public funding.


Child abuse is often considered a generic term, which encompasses a range of different forms of misconduct by adults toward children. The term child protection also has many meanings that range from a broad community based approach to very narrow definitions associated with procedures. In the context of sport, the boundaries are often blurred.

The literature identifies six common types of misconduct involving the actions of adults toward children in a sports’ setting: (1) bullying; (2) harassment; (3) hazing; (4) emotional misconduct; (5) physical misconduct; and, (6) sexual misconduct (including child sexual abuse). All forms of misconduct are intolerable and in direct conflict with the ideals of sport.

  • United Nations Convention on the Rights of the ChildUnited Nations, (1989). While the Convention does not directly refer to sport, Article 19 sets forth children’s rights to protection from maltreatment, violence, exploitation, abuse, and neglect. In addition, Article 31 confirms the right of all children to play.
  • IOC Consensus Statement on Sexual Harassment and Abuse in SportInternational Olympic Committee, (2007). This document defines the problems, identifies the risk factors, and provides guidelines for prevention and resolution. The aim of the Consensus is to improve the health and protection of athletes through the promotion of effective preventive policies, as well as increased awareness of the problems.

Protecting children engaged in sport from abuse, exploitation, and any form of physical or psychological harm is a core issue for adults who administer and deliver sports programs. Like other institutions having a duty of care to children, sporting organisations are not immune to failures of policy, procedures, or systems.

Policies, programs, and supporting structures

As is the case with many social factors impacting the sports domain, the issue of preventing child abuse is a serious and complex issue that affects everyone.

Everyone in the community who has a supervisory role over young people has an obligation to ensure and provide a safe environment. An extensive range of policies, programs, and supporting structures have been put in place to assist sporting organisations to plan and manage for these challenging issues.

Resources for organisations and parents

Further information

Is this information complete?

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