Vicsport aiding sport through Child Safe workshops
Vicsport has conducted two Child Safe workshops with Basketball Victoria (BV) and for the first time, provided education to the entire staff which enabled BV to come away with a team-developed action plan.
Joining Vicsport in 2010, Vicsport Sports Consultant Fiona Jones began work on the Child Safe Standards in 2016. Since then, she has assisted State Sporting Associations (SSAs) with the implementation of the Victorian Child Safe Standards, a legislative requirement which all organisations involved in child related work in Victoria must adhere to.
“We all know sport is a fantastic way to get children active and healthy and sport is heavily reliant on junior participation,” Jones said.
“But the Victorian inquiry and Royal Commission’s analysis of institutional child abuse found sport is an area of society where abuse is prevalent and more action needs to be taken to provide a safe environment for our children.
“We want children to participate somewhere they feel safe and where their parents can feel confident bringing them. And from the sport organisation’s perspective, they must provide an environment that retains and attracts members who feel safe and can speak up if they have issues.”
Vicsport’s Child Safe workshops assist SSA’s to achieve this goal, utilising activities, personal experiences in the job and case studies across two hours before bringing it all together to create an action plan.
“The workshops begin with everyone analysing what child safe sport looks like for their particular sport and what an ideal, safe world of (in this instance, basketball) would be,” Jones said. “We then take the attendees through the Child Safe Standards in detail, giving them an idea of what needs to be accomplished.
“The statistics involved in the Standards that show the prevalence of child abuse in the Victorian community, whether it be verbal/physical abuse or instances of grooming, is often shocking. BV were generous in explaining some of the past issues they have experienced as an SSA and this helped make the workshop more real, especially for those who may not be as close to child safety in their particular role, while demonstrating that their colleagues have had to deal with these difficult scenarios.”
Basketball Victoria CEO Nick Honey was adamant the entire BV staff undertake the child safety training, knowing how important the issue is to the sport and recreation community.
“Basketball Victoria prides itself on placing great importance on the safety and wellbeing of all participants and our staff are critical to the overall success of implementing our child safety standards and protocols,” Honey said.
"We felt it was important to have all staff members attend this training to ensure everyone understood the requirements and knew what to do to meet them on a day-to-day basis.”
Media and Communications Coordinator at BV, Jarrod Potter found the sessions eye-opening as to just how widespread the issue of child abuse in sport is.
“It is critical for any sporting organisation to understand what is required to maintain the health and wellbeing of the children involved,” Potter said. “Basketball Victoria does not take its role in this space lightly and felt it was in the best interest of all staff – whether or not they have those consistent interactions with children in the workspace – to upskill and become educated in this area.
“For me personally, working in communications and public relations and creating multimedia content for our websites means I need to understand the privacy, protection and health concerns of our younger stakeholders so it is very important to know the child safety standards.”
After going through the standards in their workshop, BV were divided into groups by their roles and tasked with creating a list of instances when they interact with children. Participants select a top three based on the instances with the highest risk or what occurs most often, considering what they already do to make that task safe and what they could do to strengthen those practices.
“Our attendees often find their initial list to be longer than expected but having a group take a critical look at a few current practices enables the SSA to establish what they are doing well and where they can improve,” Jones said.
“We then bring everyone together and allow the groups to use their suggestions to help any of the issues that had been brought up. The final activity is to create an action plan, deciding which suggestions are achievable, who will do it and in what timeframe. The list does not have to be long but with all the action plans combined, you get an overarching organisational action plan.
“We then recommend SSAs look back six or 12 months down the road to see how they are progressing in achieving those goals and any potential next steps in the process.”
“My takeaways from the sessions were that child safety is an organisational task, not just for those who have direct interactions with players, referees or students,” said Potter. “It is important to push your company forward and embrace having everyone understand these requirements for the betterment of your sporting culture and workplace culture.”
“Across the board, our staff members thought the training was a great benefit to them,” added Honey. “Not just in their direct interactions with participants but also in understanding what should happen to ensure these standards and protocols are successfully met across the organisation."
This year, the Child Safe workshops were not immune to the effects of COVID-19, with Vicsport having to move the second session with BV online. However, the workshop was run the same way with Zoom breakout rooms utilised to divide the attendees up and Google Docs helping participants create their lists.
“Running it online did show us that it can be used for those people that cannot make it to daytime workshops or are limited in their travel, particularly those who are in outer metro and regional areas,” said Jones. “The workshops are mainly run for SSAs but we are happy to adapt them for LGAs and we can chat to state bodies about how to assist their clubs as well.
“It is exciting to see the ways we can continue to adapt to help sports all around Victoria strengthen the ways they operate.”