The Victorian Child Safe Standards (the Standards) apply to all sporting organisations that provide services or facilities to children within Victoria. The Standards relate to developing a child safe culture within your organisation and include requirements to have practices, procedures and policies in place to prevent and respond to allegations of child abuse.
Volleyball Victoria has a growing rate of membership with over 5000 members spread across affiliated clubs, associations and schools. Volleyball Victoria boasts a near perfect 50% divide of both male and female participants. With over 2000 participants under the age of 19, Volleyball Victoria aims to support affiliates to adopt and implement child safe policies and procedures to ensure the safety of all children participating in the sport.
Volleyball Victoria supports a safe, fun and harassment-free environment, especially for children. The approach to making changes commenced with Volleyball Victoria staff attending multiple Child Safe Standard sessions to understand exactly how the changes impacted their organisation and the volleyball community. With an understanding of the Standards, they reformed their child safe policy to align with the Standards and consulted with the board before it was adopted in October 2017. The policy details the set Standards, processes and procedures, and how to manage any breaches in the Standards. This policy was made available to all affiliate clubs.
To create a benchmark to measure change in the future, Volleyball Victoria include the question ‘does Volleyball Victoria support a safe, harassment-free environment, especially for children?’ in the 2017 member satisfaction survey. Respondents were able to answer this confidentially and leave a comment in addition to the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response. 100% of respondents answered ‘yes’. Examples of the open comments included:
- “Yes, but in State League I remember the linesmen including myself would often feel intimidated by coaches yelling at us”
- “This is getting better over time”
- “Additional support for Clubs to meet Child Safety Standard would be appreciated”
Some examples of the strategies employed by Volleyball Victoria and affiliates to improve child safe environments include:
- Dedicating time each week to further advance the Standards.
- Implementing a toileting and drink break policy to encourage athletes to take group breaks during Spikezone, the entry level program for volleyball.
- Introducing a two-coach policy for the Spikezone junior program.
- Having associations advertise who the Member Protection Information Officers (MPIO) are so that members know who they can speak to if required.
- Requiring all state league coaches to complete the Play by the Rules Child Protection online course.
- Developing an online resource library for affiliates to directly access resources about child safety.
- Addressed child safety in the 2017 Annual Report to show the commitment from the board and senior staff
- Including child safety as a specific risk assessment item for junior athletes travelling with the Victorian State Team to ensure the safety of athletes. Examples include:
- Adults are not to enter rooms/cabins with athletes unless there are others present.
- Private, one on one conversations with athletes are held in open areas where the individuals aren’t hidden away from the view of others.
- Physiotherapists will only treat athletes if a coach, team member, staff member or another physiotherapist is present in the same room.
- Ensuring athletes do not ‘check in’ or publicly share where their accommodation is on social media.
- Consult with athletes to ensure they know they can address any issues or complaints with the identified MPIO’s or someone they feel comfortable with.
- Ensuring Volleyball Victoria has ongoing, open discussions to address concerns, ideas and implement changes that create safe environments for children.
- Developing a child safe code of conduct that applies in addition to existing codes of conduct.
To evaluate the success of these strategies, Volleyball Victoria will continue to ask child safety questions in the annual member satisfaction survey as well as encouraging feedback at any time from players, parents, coaches, officials and anyone else involved in the sport.
Because of the steps taken, Volleyball Victoria believes a greater number of clubs and associations are meeting the Victorian Child Safe Standards. This is creating a culture of child safety which supports a safer and friendlier environment for children who are active in volleyball across Victoria.
Challenges & Key Learnings:
Volleyball Victoria identified some of the challenges and learnings:
- Many clubs and associations feel overwhelmed by the steps and procedures needed to implement the Standards.
- Some clubs and associations believed that having a Working with Children’s Check policy was enough.
- There is a challenge in getting the right messages out to all affiliates (such as – the Standards are about developing a culture of child safety with policies and procedures to identify risks and provide clarity on procedures to respond to and report child abuse).
- Clubs and associations are run by volunteers who are already time poor for administration.
- Offering support by providing templates, guidelines and other resources to all affiliated clubs and associations.
- Offering check ins and support at committee meetings.
Volleyball Victoria is addressing these challenges at the club and association level by:
- Encouraging a slow and steady approach and following a step by step action plan.
Key Take Away Points:
Volleyball Victoria is committed to children’s safety in volleyball and sport in general. Victoria said: “our biggest advice would be to talk about it and keep it at the forefront of your mind. The more we talk about child safety and make changes, the sooner we will see the shift to a child safe culture and environment.”
For more information and resources head to Vicsport’s Child Safe Sport page.
Hear from Victoria and other SSA representatives in our child safe sport video.
Membership Services Coordinator – Volleyball Victoria
Written by James Godden, Deakin University
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