If you’ve received a complaint relating to child abuse, you need to know that:
- all allegations of child abuse should be referred to your club’s administrator, Member Protection Information Officer or Child Protection Officer
- an allegation of serious or criminal abuse requires urgent action – contact your child protection authority or the police immediately
- less serious/urgent allegations should be actioned within 24 hours.
- although incidents may seem minor, they may represent ‘the tip of the iceberg’ and must be reporte
- appropriate record keeping is very important in these matters. Requirements vary across Australia, make sure you are familiar with the requirements in your state/territory
- a club’s responsibilities do not end with reporting a suspicion of harm.
Different procedures are required when there is a suspicion of harm against a child – in how a complaint is received, to meet mandatory reporting requirements of some states and to ensure that any investigation by the police or child protection authority is not compromised.
The following steps will help you respond to an allegation of child abuse.
Clarify basic details of the allegation
- Listen and be supportive.
- Reassure the child that what has occurred is not their fault:
- be honest and explain that other people may need to be told in order to stop what is happening
- avoid suggestive or leading questions – ask the child “What happened?” and “Then what happened?”
- If another person makes the complaint ask the person to:
- explain their reasons for suspecting abuse (observation, injury or other)
- provide the names and contact details of all people involved, including witnesses.
Report allegations of a serious or criminal nature
- Report any incident of a serious or a criminal nature to the police or child protection authority immediately.
- If the child’s parent/s are suspected of committing the abuse, report the allegation to the relevant government agency.
Protect the child and make sure the alleged offender is not victimised
- Take action to ensure the child’s/children’s safety (e.g., move the alleged offender to a non-child related position, supervise the alleged offender or remove/suspend them from their duties while the matter is being investigated).
- Make sure the individual accused of the offence is not victimised. If they’re stood down make it clear that this does not mean the person is guilty and that a proper investigation will be undertaken before decisions are made.
Follow the child protection authority or police requirements
Further clarify and investigate allegation (if requested to do so). Provide information and assist in investigations as appropriate.
- The police or child protection agency may undertake an investigation. They may also request that the state sporting organisation undertake their own investigation (this should be done by an independent person with appropriate investigative expertise).
- The club should provide information and assist with the investigation as appropriate.
- Individuals/clubs should not try to investigate the incident themselves.
Manage the Situation
You mustmanage the situation while an investigation is being conducted (internal orexternal)
- Do not talk to the alleged victim, the family or alleged perpetrator about the complaint while the investigation is underway. If you are asked for information, your response should be confined to the complaint process and timeline;
- Take action to enquire the ongoing safety of members, particularly children, until the authorities have completed the investigation. This may involve providing extra supervision or removal of a person from their position pending the outcome of the investigation. If the person is in a paid position, seek advice from your state sporting organisation or a lawyer;
- Restrict what other member sand their families are told. If there are enquiries, they should be handled by one person such as the club president. Discussion should focus on the process rather than the people.
- If an alleged perpetratorhas been removed from their position the most you should tell others is that he/she is unable to attend for a time.
Implement disciplinary action as required
- Implement any disciplinary action recommended by the police, child protection authority or state sporting organisation. The action should be immediate.
- Check with the relevant state government authority to see if you need to forward a report (e.g. the NSW Commission for Children and Young People requires notification of relevant employment proceedings).
Review and evaluate
- Once the issue has been resolved, review and evaluate your club’s processes and procedures. Could the matter have been handled more sensitively? Efficiently? Quickly? Use this information to update your club’s policies and guidelines.
The Australian Sports Commission Member Protection policy template Part C provides detailed information on child protection complaint procedures.
Click here for more information about child protection complaint handling steps.
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