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Evidence Base for Sport

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: 12 August 2022
Content disclaimer: See Clearinghouse for Sport disclaimer

'Child protection' of 'safeguarding' 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 events and activities.

Compliance

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

Member protection

Australian Government recognised sporting organisations are required to have approved national integrity policies, including member protection and child safeguarding, in practice to receive recognition and/or funding.

Background

Abuse is often considered a generic term, which encompasses a range of different forms of misconduct.

The literature identifies six common types of misconduct in a sports’ setting: (1) bullying; (2) harassment; (3) hazing; (4) emotional misconduct; (5) physical misconduct; and (6) sexual misconduct (including 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 Child, United 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: harassment and abuse (non-accidental violence) in sport, Mountjoy M, Brackenridge C, Arrington M, et al., British Journal of Sports Medicine, (2016). This Consensus Statement extends the 2007 IOC Consensus Statement on Sexual Harassment and Abuse in Sport,. It presents evidence of types of harassment and abuse including—psychological, physical and neglect. And also highlights that all ages and types of athletes are susceptible to these problems but elite, child, LGBT+ and those with disability are at highest risk. Psychological abuse is at the core of all other forms and athletes can also be perpetrators.

Protecting children and young people engaged in sport from abuse, exploitation, and physical or psychological harm is a core issue for those 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 issues impacting the sports domain, preventing 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

Related Topics


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