Soccer mums and dads need to be aware of child abuse risk, royal commission hears

A girl was attacked by her soccer coach, a royal commission has heard.Girl, 8, ‘raped and infected with HIV’, inquiry told

Soccer mums and dads need more education on how to recognise the signs of sexual abuse to help protect their children from predators, a royal commission has heard.

Football NSW head of child protection Michelle Hanley told the royal commission that all sports officials should be legally obliged to report child abuse and every volunteer should undergo a background check.

Ms Hanley made the recommendations on the second day of the inquiry into paedophilia at sports clubs by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The commission has previously heard testimony from a woman who was allegedly raped by her soccer coach when she was eight and was later diagnosed with HIV.

Ms Hanley told the commission that Football NSW would consider broadening its child protection policies by making more information about child abuse available to parents, including displaying posters at clubs.

She also agreed that it would be an “excellent idea” to give children information about where to raise allegations, even if doing so anonymously.

There are 127,000 children registered with Football NSW, and many of their parents volunteer as coaches and referees.

At present parents who volunteer for a school or sports club where their child is directly involved are exempt from undergoing background checks.

Ms Hanley told the commission this exemption should be removed but conceded that may not stop predators.

“I would like to see the Working with Children Check applied to everybody,” she said.

“It is a check for previous charges and convictions. It’s no guarantee but it certainly would identify people in the sport that have a previous charge and conviction who aren’t appropriate to work with children or volunteer with children.”

In her testimony she called for all sports officials to be mandatory reporters, making them legally obliged to inform authorities of child abuse.

The commission heard that the soccer coach accused of raping the eight-year-old in 1996 continued to coach children in south-western Sydney for years after being charged over the assault.

Ms Hanley told the commission that neither the NSW Police nor the Department of Family and Community Services informed Football NSW that the coach was facing charges over the alleged rape.

The coach, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was found not guilty of raping the eight-year-old but was later convicted of sex offences involving other young children and sentenced to five years’ jail.

The hearing, before Justice Peter McClellan​, continues.

Lifeline: 13 11 14; Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800; Royal commission: 1800 099 340

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