Victoria University researchers work with Play By The Rules on new campaign

VU's Dr Aurélie Pankowiak and Dr Mary Woessner believe that community conversations about how to safe-guard children involved in sport are key.
Thursday 1 June 2023

When it comes to kids' sport, parents and carers often have lots of questions about uniform, drop-off times and whether the kids will get to play with their friends. But, the most important question we want parents and carers to ask their clubs is “how will your club keep my child safe?”

Start to Talk is a national campaign that aims to encourage the sport community to discuss how they can work together to create a safe environment for children. Research from Victoria University has previously demonstrated the extent and nature of experiences of violence within community sports in Australia, highlighting the importance of this campaign to address the issue.

The campaign asks the community to read, download and discuss Child Safe Sport resources developed by Sport Integrity Australia.

Play By The Rules aims to upskill the community by making it easy to locate the right resources; making it easy to understand what Child Safe Sport looks like; and, most importantly, setting out clearly and simply the practical steps parents, carers and clubs can take to start a conversation at their club.

The outcomes of the Royal Commission and recent academic studies show that when it comes to safeguarding in sport, conversations and awareness are vital. Eighty-two percent of people sampled in a study conducted by Victoria University have experienced at least one type of interpersonal violence (psychological, physical and or sexual violence and neglect) as a child participating in community sport in Australia. Seven in 10 respondents experienced psychological violence from a peer, and over half of the study respondents experienced physical and/or psychological violence by a coach.

Start to Talk Ambassadors and research co-authors Dr Aurélie Pankowiak and Dr Mary Woessner from Victoria University believe that community conversations are key to tackling this subject:

Children deserve to play sport in an environment in which they are and feel safe and included.

“While our data suggests that might not be the experience of all children, we can leverage these findings to create positive change. However, to do that we need parents and clubs to understand that this problem exists, and to be willing to talk about it with their children and the sports clubs. But most people don’t discuss this topic.”

The Start to Talk campaign is a call to action for the sport community to talk about their experiences in sport. The campaign website provides parents and sporting clubs access to resources that can help support the community to communicate about safety in sport.

Article originally published by Play by the Rules

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