Complaint Handling files header image

All sport and active recreation organisations should support everyone to participate in a safe environment, develop friendships and have fun. No person should be subjected to discrimination, harassment or abuse. If you believe this behaviour is occuring, you have every right to make a complaint. Most state or national sporting and recreation bodies have policies and procedures, such as a Member Protection Policy, for dealing with complaints which include the following options: 

  • trying to sort the matter out yourself;
  • informal discussions with the other party;
  • mediation;
  • lodging a formal written complaint at the level the incident occurred;
  • appealing to the next level if you believe the outcome was; biased, you have been denied natural justice or the process didn’t follow your sport’s procedures;
  • referring or lodging a complaint with an external authority (e.g. police, child protection or anti-discrimination agency). 

Generally you have a choice in how you would like your complaint dealt with. In some cases though, the club may have a duty of care and be required to act, irrespective of how you would like the complaint handled (e.g. if a child is believed at risk of harm).

Check your organisations policies or contact your club President or the designated complaint handler (if your club has one). If you need advice regarding the options available to you it may be worth speaking with a Member Protection Information Officer (MPIO). Your club or State Organisation should be able to provide you with a contact for an MPIO. 

  • Where to complain
  • What to expect
  • Where to get help

Where to complain

You can direct complaints to the President, Executive Officer, complaint handler or Member Protection Information Officer (if the sport or club has one) of your club or organisation.

Lodge your complaint at the level at which the issue occurs (e.g. if it’s a club issue, then it should be dealt with at the local level; if it’s a state or national issue direct it to the appropriate authority).

If you are worried that a child is at risk, report your suspicions immediately to your state or national sporting or recreation organisation and child protection authority (this is a legal requirement in some states). 

If the issue is serious (e.g. sexual harassment or physical assault) you can either lodge a complaint with your organisation or contact your state’s:  

  • anti-discrimination agency if you want advice or to refer a complaint about discrimination and harassment, or the Australian Human Rights Commission
  • police department to report allegations of assault or to request police assistance.

You can also contact either agency at any time during the complaint handling process. If you’re not satisfied with the way the complaint’s been handled or you’re unhappy with the outcome, you may be able to either lodge an appeal or direct the complaint to the next level (e.g. state or national organisation.

What to expect

Discrimination, harassment and inappropriate or unfair behaviour do not support a positive organisational culture.

Organisations should therefore:

  • Take all complaints seriously and act promptly
  • Listen to both sides of the story
  • Treat people fairly (e.g. not take sides and focus on the facts)
  • Keep everyone informed
  • Maintain confidentiality
  • Take disciplinary action appropriate to the breach of policy
  • Make sure the person complaining is not victimised.

If you decide to make a complaint you can generally expect to be:

  • Identified (but only to the person against whom you are making the complaint, the rest of the club will not be told)
  • Requested to support your complaint by providing information about the incident e.g. what, where and when the behaviour occurred and what you did at the time the contact details of any witnesses any evidence or documents e.g. emails, text messages
  • Protected from victimisation (e.g. your sport may move the person you’re complaining about to another position while the investigation is underway).

If your complaint involves suspicions of harm against a child, click here for specific information.

Where to get help

Although your sport or recreation club/organisation will deal with complaints, external help is available. Irrespective of whether you have a complaint, you’re responding to a complaint or someone has complained about you, you can get information and external support from a range of agencies.

Human Rights, Equal Opportunity and Anti-Discrimination Agencies – free confidential advice about discrimination, harassment, victimization and the lodgement of complaints.  Administer national human rights and equal opportunity laws. Investigate and attempt to resolve complaints of illegal discrimination, harassment or victimisation. Educate to prevent discrimination and harassment.

Child Protection Agencies – Offer advice and handle reporting of child abuse/suspicion of harm against children. Provide advice on enquiries about suspicion of harm against children and investigate emotional abuse and neglect. 

Police -
Investigate allegations of physical or sexual assault. Investigate suspicions of child abuse. Conduct criminal record checks. Provide application forms for national police checks.

Community legal and mediation services -
Provide low (or no) free mediation for sport’s club complaints. Free (or low cost), confidential mediation and negotiation.

State and territory departments of sport and recreation -
Implement state and territories government’s strategies for sport and active recreation. Help in the development of child safe, harassment-free sporting environments. Do not directly handle complaints or investigate or resolve disputes. Note: The services offered by these agencies may vary between states and territories.

This information should be used as a general guide only.

Resources:

Quick Reference Guide - This Quick Reference Guide shows where you can find the essential information and services to help you resolve these issues, including: 

  • Referring illegal or unlawful behaviour
  • Promoting a positive, child-safe environment
  • Making and resolving complaints

Complaints Flowchart

Complaint Handling Principles fact sheet

Complaint Procedures (Discrimination steps) fact sheet