Gymnastics Victoria Statement to the Australian Human Rights Commission Review

9 January 2020


To the Australian Human Rights Commission (Commission) and the gymnastics community in Victoria,

We write to support the objectives of the Commission’s independent review into gymnastics in Australia (Review) and to communicate the commitment of Gymnastics Victoria to the safety of all athletes in the sport.

Gymnastics Victoria has been heartened to see so many members of its wider community - parents, coaches, club owners, presidents, committee members, officials, volunteers and gymnasts speak up and contribute to the Review.

We would like to acknowledge and praise the many positive role models that we already have across our sport who nurture a culture of care for athletes and members.

Gymnastics Victoria is guided by a strong and clear sense of purpose in which all gymnasts are empowered to achieve their full potential within a positive and supportive environment.

Gymnastics Victoria’s support for the Review

Gymnastics Victoria strongly supports and endorses the Review, including:

• Gymnastics Australia’s request for the Commission to carry out the Review;
• the Review’s objectives which directly align with Gymnastics Victoria’s commitment to athlete wellbeing and empowerment and to its zero tolerance to any form of inappropriate behaviour or abuse;
• the Review’s broad terms of reference to capture the views of all levels of the sport (national, state and club) from grassroots to high performance;
• a commitment to note the recommendations from the Review in order to improve the systems and processes of Gymnastics Victoria and to ensure a safe environment for all athletes.

The Objectives of the Review

(1) Understand and learn from the historical athlete experience of gymnastics in Australia to inform future practice

Gymnastics Victoria applauds members of the gymnastics community across Australia for raising concerns and negative experiences from the past, acknowledging just how difficult this can be for many individuals. Gymnastics Victoria will continue to work with and listen to current and past athletes in order to inform and improve its systems and practices for all individuals involved in the sport.
Gymnastics Victoria will also build on its existing child safe practices to ensure that a culture of care exists for all who engage with the sport of gymnastics.

(2) Ensure support for athletes affected by misconduct, bullying, abuse, sexual harassment and assault

Every athlete has the right to feel safe and supported and to participate in gymnastics, being free from any form of misconduct, bullying, abuse, sexual harassment and assault. The protection of our athletes is and will continue to be a leadership commitment that overrides all other considerations at Gymnastics Victoria.

Gymnastics Victoria shows leadership to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all athletes by:

• stipulating member protection and child safety policies, codes of conduct, procedures, guidelines, resources and training programs. All governance level policies are reviewed by the Board according to an agreed schedule;
• requiring commitment by club leaders to the protection of all members and athletes
• encouraging and providing clear processes for the reporting of all complaints and athlete concerns both externally and internally. This includes the incorporation of a comprehensive and detailed complaints handling procedure in its Member Protection Policy;
• requiring stringent recruitment and screening procedures for all adults engaged by Gymnastics Victoria, including all employees, contractor and volunteers;
• engaging internal staff with the suitable expertise to provide member protection and child safety guidance to clubs, members and Gymnastics Victoria itself;
• consulting with the gymnastics community and providing opportunities for athletes to contribute to discussion related to their protection and child safety
• supporting the inclusion and participation of underrepresented groups in the community, including indigenous children, those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and athletes with a disability; and
• engaging external advisers where needed, who are experts in athlete protection and child safety to supplement internal expertise and knowledge and to assist with compliance across all areas of operations.

(3) Improve current and future practice, policy and governance to ensure athlete safety, wellbeing and empowerment

The Board of Gymnastics Victoria is responsible for setting future policy and practice to ensure athlete safety, wellbeing and empowerment.

Gymnastics Victoria will continue to:

• Develop and maintain organisational policies, procedures and education programs relating to the safety and wellbeing of athletes and facilitate their dissemination, implementation and monitoring;
• Require that reporting and complaint handling frameworks and governance and accountability structures are in place at all levels;
• Monitor the response to formal complaints received at the national, state or club levels;
• Compare global best practice in preventing and responding to misconduct, bullying, abuse, sexual harassment and assault of athletes in comparable sports.

Gymnastics Victoria’s commitment to the protection of all athletes in the sport

Gymnastics Victoria is committed to providing a sport free of discrimination, harassment or abuse of any kind and physical violence, where all individuals are treated with respect and dignity. Gymnastics Victoria is further committed to ensuring that the safety, welfare and wellbeing of all athletes, but in particular children, are maintained at all times during their participation in activities run by Gymnastics Victoria and its member bodies.
We are very proud of the many role models in our sport that have a positive influence on our coaches, athletes and members. We are confident that such exceptional and dedicated individuals make up the majority and that they share a passion for gymnastics and its many benefits.

Additional support for athletes

Gymnastics Victoria believes that only with transparency, information sharing, and an environment where athletes feel comfortable to raise concerns, can the sport continue to ensure the ongoing safety of all athletes.

Gymnastics Victoria strongly encourages any member of the gymnastics community in Victoria to:

• report all member protection and child safety concerns as soon as they arise (further information on reporting concerns can be found here);
• contact Gymnastics Victoria at cp@gymvic.org.au if anyone has any questions.

Looking ahead

Gymnastics Victoria is committed to continuing leadership in safeguarding children and is proactive in building a culture of care.

Gymnastics Victoria will contribute fully in all aspects of the Review and continue to support the participation of others.

Looking ahead, we will carefully reflect on all recommendations of the Review to inform future policy, practice and wellbeing considerations for all levels of the sport.

Yours sincerely,

Robin O’Neill - Chief Executive Officer
Judy Young -  Chair of the Board