Dealing with complaints involves talking to the people involved and listening to their respective sides of the story. Before you take this step, think about the best way of organising the meeting, how the people involved might respond and what you can do to manage the situation in a fair and impartial manner. Below are some tips to help prepare for meeting:
- Put yourself in place of the people involved.
- Think about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it.
- Consider how the issue relates to your club’s policies and codes of behaviour.
- Recognise that different people will probably want different things.
- Don’t be defensive or allow yourself to be pressured into a particular course of action.
- Be clear about how you will manage expectations about the complaint process and outcomes:
- if a person wants help but doesn’t want to be identified explain that you’re limited in the actions you can take, unless the complaint involves a child
- if a person insists on immediate disciplinary measures let them know that the person they are complaining about has the right to tell their side of the story
- if you have conflict of interest (e.g., you are related to the person being complained about) remove yourself from the process.
- Remember: the safety of club members should be your first priority, particularly if the complaint involves possible child abuse.
Putting yourself in the place of those involved
Making a complaint can be very difficult. The person making the complaint may be:
- angry, upset, afraid or hostile concerned that they’ll get a reputation as a trouble-maker
- fearful that there may be retaliation because they’ve made a complaint
- uncomfortable about discussing their concerns
- concerned that little may change as a result of meeting with you
- defensive, particularly if the person against whom they are complaining is another club official.
Think about the accused
The person against whom the complaint has been made may:
- react with shock
- be angry
- deny the allegation
- threaten to resign or leave the club
- fear that a complaint will impact on their reputation and standing within the club
- threaten legal action.
Be clear about how you will manage expectations
If a person does not want to be identified
- Explain you may be limited in what you can do.
- Explore their reluctance: they may be fearful of victimisation or other repercussions.
- Check if they’d be more comfortable talking to someone else in the club.
- Explain that they can go to an outside body, such as the sport’s state association or their state/territory department for sport and recreation, child protection or anti-discrimination agency, at any time.
- Explain that you’ll ensure codes of behaviour and other policies are reinforced.
- Seek advice from the appropriate authority if the matter is serious e.g. suspected child abuse, physical or sexual assault.
- Monitor and review the situation.
If the person insists on immediate disciplinary measures
- Explain that everyone has the right to a fair hearing. This means people are ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and that they have the right to tell their side of the story.
- Make sure the person understands the club’s complaint procedures and let them know that they can go to an outside body (e.g. state/territory department for sport and recreation) if they’re unhappy with the process.
- If the complaint is serious, consider moving the person against whom the complaint has been made to another position that does not involve contact with children, young people or the person making the complaint. Alternatively, you may wish to allocate extra personnel to provide support/supervision as the person being investigated goes about their role.
- Explain that no-one should be victimised as a result of this process.
If you have a conflict of interest
- Declare that you have a conflict of interest.
- Arrange for someone else with authority in your club to deal with the complaint.
- Let the person know where they can get help, for example their state’s sport organisation, the department for sport and recreation, child protection and anti-discrimination agencies.