Sport Integrity Australia’s role in protecting Australian sport and all involved in sport has been amplified following the Federal Government’s announcement of an expansion of the agency’s functions.
In response to the Athlete A documentary which looked at the abuse of gymnasts in the US, Sport Integrity Australia built the National Integrity Framework and the Independent Complaints Handling Model.
Today’s Federal Government announcement places Sport Integrity Australia in a position to play a national coordination role for all sport integrity related matters.
The new Safety in Sport Division announced today will ensure a more informed and appropriate response to integrity issues under the National Integrity Framework.
Initiatives include the engagement of a Deputy CEO Safety/Culture Strategy who will inform Sport Integrity Australia’s approach to dealing with a range of issues, including abuse and mistreatment, racism in sport and discrimination based on race and culture, across all levels of Australian sport.
There will also be an expansion of the capability of Sport Integrity Australia’s existing 1300 number from January 2023 to include a confidential reporting capability focusing on abuse in sport and wider racial and cultural issues, as well as expanding the education platform with a greater focus on all issues relating to safety in sport.
The new National Integrity Framework being implemented across sport in Australia covers issues of abuse, harassment, bullying, discrimination and vilification under the Member Protection Policy.
Sport Integrity Australia CEO David Sharpe said it is critical to have a body that nationally coordinates responses to these issues, independent of sport.
He said the creation of a Safety in Sport Division will ensure the response from Sport Integrity Australia and sports bodies in Australia is appropriately informed by specialists across all areas of sport, law enforcement, education, human rights, diversity, and culture.
“Anti-doping programs were introduced to Australian sports in 1990 and are now embraced as a part of the sporting culture,” Mr Sharpe said. “In a similar way today’s announcement from Government allows Sport Integrity Australia to develop key programs to ensure integrity becomes central to the sporting culture as we head into the green and gold decade with the Brisbane 2032 Olympics.”
The new Safety in Sport Division will drive education programs, innovative partnerships and manage an independent complaints process that is trauma-informed and culturally appropriate, he said.
“This new division will not only manage complaints independently but will have a capability to listen to issues in sport, provide wellbeing support to those telling their story, and offer a confidential reporting scheme to protect the anonymity of those people who look to Sport Integrity Australia for support. Today we start the conversation at the grassroots level because today’s five-year-old could be our 2032 Olympian.
“Anyone involved in sport can come to Sport Integrity Australia to tell their story and it is these stories that will ensure we drive cultural change in sport. We are here to listen, and information gathered will allow the agency to further identify emerging trends and inform our education initiatives and strategies.”
Mr Sharpe said Australia should be proud of the willingness of sports in this country to implement change following revelations of abuse in US Gymnastics, to which Australia was not immune.
“It is only together that government, sports, and athletes can change the culture.”
When Sport Integrity Australia was first established in July 2020 there was no handbook for how to establish a sport integrity agency. “No one else was doing what we were doing,” he said. “We knew of emerging threats and knew we wouldn’t see some coming so, with government support, we have established Sport Integrity Australia with appropriate skillset and capability ensuring we are agile and able to respond to any threat to Australian sport.”
Since opening in July 2020, Sport Integrity Australia has received over 1300 matters and referred 117 of those to law enforcement. The agency has also used this data to develop targeted education and policy reform in sport to change the culture of sport.
Mr Sharpe welcomed the Federal Government’s funding commitment to clean and safe sport for all as it allows the agency to retain and recruit the specialist skillset required to expand the role the agency already plays in protecting sport.
Mr Sharpe stressed that the expansion of the agency’s operations will not include a takeover of existing Integrity Units in professional sport in Australia, but will work closely in partnership to ensure everyone involved in sport plays a part in changing the culture.
“The Safety in Sport Division will bring together existing capability and combine it with new skillsets such as human rights and cultural experts to ensure the agency response is appropriate and informed. The aim of the expanded operations at Sport Integrity Australia is to ensure no Australian sportsperson falls through the cracks when it comes to dealing with all integrity issues in sport.
“Sport Integrity Australia will create a safe space for people to share their stories.”
Mr Sharpe said the Safety in Sport Division will not cover investigation of historical matters, but will have the capability of listening to historical concerns with the information provided assisting in guiding future strategies.
“With every registered National Sporting Organisation now either implementing the National Integrity Framework or having their safeguarding policies approved by Sport Integrity Australia there is a genuine commitment from sport to change the culture for the better. It’s important that we work together.
“We all have a role to play in protecting sport in Australia, this includes our agency, the Government and the community.”
The agency will also expand current partnerships with the AFP, the ACIC, state and territory law enforcement, the National Office of Child Safety and universities, as well as formalising partnerships with the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.
“The expanded operations will ensure a nationally coordinated ‘one-stop shop’ for all integrity matters in sport.”