Child safety policies a top priority

For many sporting and recreational clubs, navigating the obligations of child safety can be challenging and clubs often lack the resources to develop and implement child safe policies.

The Royal Commission into Sport, Recreation, Arts, Culture, Community and Hobby Groups highlighted the significant harm that can occur when sporting clubs, including those in regional areas, do not have effective provisions in place to keep children and young people safe.

This struck a deep chord with Malseed Park’s Blue Lake Soccer Club, which has implemented its own Child Safe Policy and raised the club’s awareness of the importance of protecting children and young people.

The club has long considered its obligation to keeping children and young people safe as a top priority whilst also providing a family-oriented sporting facility which relies on the generosity of its volunteers.

Like many sporting organisations, development of a child safe policy required support of the broader club and a proactive committee. After years of work, in 2021, the Blue Lake Soccer Club was proud to see the policy fully implemented.

The club, known for its royal blue, white and red, appointed a child safety officer to write a policy from scratch, a process providing confidence to the families but most importantly giving a voice to children.

“It began with the large influx of children associated with our Mini-Roos program,” president Nathan Butler said.

“The club needed to ensure we had the mechanisms in place to ensure the club had fulfilled its duty of care for all by ensuring our coaches and helpers had been screened and more importantly understood their role in the protection of children in their care for training and game days.”

Child Safety Officer Dani Atkinson met with the children in the developing stages to seek their views about what safety meant for them.

“The club knew it was really important to hear from the people the policy protects – the children,” Atkinson said.

“We wanted to authenticate the participation of the children because doing so gives them a voice and encourages them to speak up about matters concerning their safety, protection and well-being.

“Even now, we want the young people at the club to understand and have knowledge about their safety.”

Referring to the 2013-2017 Royal Commission, Atkinson expressed her gratitude to the club for having stepped up to the challenge of developing and implementing the policy, which was challenging for all.

Many people within the club were not overly familiar with child safety, it’s not a topic that is the most comfortable to talk about, however the club has demonstrated an on-going commitment and we trust the children, young people and their families feel confident knowing how committed the club is.

Blue Lake Sports Club is also in the final stages of releasing the policy in a culturally and linguistically diverse format that captures the essence of the policy to ensure that families (where English is not their first language) have an opportunity to learn about the club’s commitment.

“We have many children and young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds within our club and it was of equal importance they and their families felt the same confidence in the club their safety is our top priority,” Atkinson said.

“We want all children to come to our club, enjoy the sport, have fun and feel a sense of achievement and belonging and we’re committed to making sure this happens safely.”

This year sees the United Women join Blue Lake Soccer Club and the players and associated families of United were heartened by Blue Lakes’ commitment to child safety. 

Matt and Peta Crewe – coach, team manager and parents – are both impressed by the work.

“With our background in youth development and governance, it’s good to know child safety is a priority and this fits with the culture that United Women developed over many years,” they said.

“We now have a solid foundation of policies, procedures and training to guide and support us into the future.” 

Under the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017, all prescribed organisations must have policies and procedures designed to ensure safe environments for children and young people are established and maintained. The Department of Humans Services provides approval via a compliance statement for Child Safe Environment policies and procedures.

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