Change the Routine Update - 8 December 2021

I would like to take the opportunity to update you on the important work that has followed the release of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Change the Routine Report just over six months ago. As you may recall, Gymnastics Australia committed to adopting all 12 Recommendations from the Report – and the planning for and implementation of the Recommendations have been and continue to be an important priority. We are committed to keeping you - our community, informed about our response and are pleased to provide the following update on our progress towards implementing the Report’s Recommendations.

In response to the Recommendations, we immediately established four Workstreams, each aligned to a separate section of the Report - Coaching, Athlete Experience, Complaints & Investigations, and Governance & Structure. Each Workstream produced a project plan with key deliverables, timeframes and an outline of how those activities will contribute to overall transformational cultural change. An important element to this process has been to ensure all activities are aligned and integrated, to deliver a practical, relevant and sustainable response for all our members.

The need for independence in the way that serious complaints are investigated was one of major issues identified in the Report. We have been working closely with Sport Integrity Australia (SIA), as we prepare to adopt and implement the National Integrity Framework (NIF) in April 2022. Importantly, the National Integrity Framework will enable serious complaints to be managed externally and independently by SIA.

As the formal adoption of the NIF will not be in place until next April, we have established an agreement with SIA to manage serious complaints for the sport as an interim measure. The handling of serious complaints by an independent body is an important step in restoring the trust of our community.

Consultation with clubs around the country regarding the operational implementation of the NIF is already underway, marking the start of a comprehensive education and awareness program. We will develop a feedback process after implementation to enable two way communication with clubs to ensure the policies are fit for purpose for our clubs and members and become seamlessly embedded in your ways of working.

Another theme highlighted throughout the report is the need to incorporate and empower the athlete voice in our sport. This philosophy is underpinned in all the Workstream activities.

In July this year we appointed two athlete representatives – Ms Alexandra Eade and Ms Annie Flamsteed – to the Gymnastics Australia Integrity Committee. The outgoing Chair of the Gymnastics Australia Athletes’ Commission Sam Offord attended all Gymnastics Australia Board meetings in the last six months, before being appointed as a Director to the Board in November, ensuring the athlete voice was and will continue to be present in national discussions and decisions.

Last month, GA established a Youth Advisory Panel, and the expression of interest process attracted significant interest from around the country. Ms Eade will be the inaugural Chair of the Youth Advisory Panel and we look forward to announcing the foundation panel members shortly.

In recent months, we have heard from many people who have had an unacceptable experience in our sport. What is clear from those conversations is there is a lot of hurt, but also a lot of hope for our sport and our community. What is also clear is that the complaints process, even when independently run, often doesn’t provide people with the resolution and acknowledgement that they need to move forward positively. While we have issued an unreserved apology to our community, for many this quite understandably isn’t enough.

In acknowledgement of this, we are in the process of establishing a restorative engagement program whereby individuals in our sport can share their story and have their experiences heard and acknowledged by Gymnastics Australia. The primary purpose of restorative engagement is to support people who have had an unacceptable experience by acknowledging what happened. It will also provide an opportunity for people to offer constructive suggestions for the future.

The initial Restorative pilot scheme will be available to the athletes and families involved in the Supplementary Complaints Management Process, with a longer term goal of broadening this program to all affiliated members. In putting this process together, we are drawing on the expertise of the National Sports Tribunal and Associate Professor Jane Bolitho, an expert in restorative justice from Victoria University of Wellington. We look forward to sharing more information about the restorative engagement program before the end of the year.

A major area of focus in the Change the Routine Report was on coaching practices. While this has been a big area of focus for GA over recent years, there is clearly more work to be done to drive lasting cultural change and compliance across all levels of the sport. Significant work has begun in overhauling our coach education framework with a view to having a coach workforce that understands and implements athlete centred and reflective coaching practices. Our goal is to provide our coaches with a robust education framework that allows them to have a deeper understanding of the coaching practices that we want and need at all levels of the sport.

In October, as an important first step in a series of education and development initiatives, Gymnastics Australia released ‘The Athlete’s Voice’, a course developed by a group of current and former athletes. The intent of involving athletes in the development of the course was to ensure the athlete’s perspective was integrated into our education courses and this has been well received within the community since its launch.

An area that the Report and our community have highlighted as being of critical importance is the need to increase transparency regarding sanctions. With the adoption of the National Integrity Framework in April next year, we will maintain a public register on our website of current sanctions, as permitted by SIA or the National Sports Tribunal. This is an important step in the right direction as part of our work to rebuild trust with the community.

The key purpose of our response to the Report, as part of our ongoing commitment and prioritisation of child safe practices, is to ensure we have education, resources, policies, and practices in place that assist our clubs to have a safe, empowered environment to enable all participants to have a positive experience. To help achieve this, another initiative currently under development and planned for release in the first quarter of 2022 is a handbook titled ‘Lead the Change’. This resource will provide valuable information, tools and resources to help implement child safe practices and behaviours in clubs in areas such as recruitment, screening, and club governance.

We are in the final stages of developing a standalone Social Media Policy and also a Disordered Eating Policy. Alongside the reviewed Body Positive Guidelines, these policies will be released early in 2022. The Disordered Eating Policy is being designed as a whole-of-sport framework which is structured around prevention and intervention strategies. Now in the final stages of development with industry experts, this policy, and accompanying resources, will be readily accessible for all clubs to use.

While we have made good progress in the six months since the Change the Routine Report was released, we acknowledge there is more to do. We are committed to ensuring our sport is safe and accessible, and our community is empowered through you, our clubs, having access to a suite of relevant and accessible policies, education, and resources to help you keep your club as a safe environment for all your members.

Gymnastics Australia would like to acknowledge the collaboration and input that we have received from our state and territory member associations along with our athletes, technical members and most importantly, you, our clubs. We are all in this together and everyone’s voice is important.

If you would like any further information regarding any of the above initiatives, please do not hesitate to contact the Gymnastics Australia Integrity Unit at [email protected].

Yours in sport