By national sport correspondent Mary Gearin
Tennis Australia is hoping to set up a Crimestoppers-style hotline within the next few weeks for athletes allegedly abused by coaches and others who have control over them, the ABC has learned.
The measure comes almost a year after the Child Abuse Royal Commission began hearings into the conduct of tennis NSW authorities towards a teenage state-level player in the 90s who accused her coach of verbal harassment and sexual abuse.
The mother of that alleged victim, and the coach who first alerted investigators to those allegations, have accused Tennis Australia of just “ticking the boxes” since the Commission, condemning its slowness to respond.
Tennis Australia will this week receive 24 recommendations in the final report from the Australian Childhood Foundation (ACF), that Tennis Australia commissioned to conduct a nationwide review of the sport’s policies to protect children and whistleblowers.
The hotline is understood to be one of the 10 measures the ACF recommended in an interim report last December.
The mother of the alleged victim featured in the royal commission has told the ABC she hopes Tennis Australia comes through with the promised measure, but that it needs to be more than a public relations exercise.
“Complainants need to know they’re totally supported and won’t be financially victimised,” she said.
Tennis Australia’s Head of Integrity, Ann West, wrote to the mother that, “whilst the wheels may seem to turn slowly we are now in the final stages of installing a ‘help line'”.
“We have sought expert advice on how to set this up and more importantly how it is managed. Fingers crossed it will be available sometime mid-March. The hold up seems to be with Telstra. The line will be managed by the Integrity Unit,” she wrote.
The emails said the hotline will be a “triage service” for complaints.
Ann West wrote:
“I realise that all this may appear that TA is just ticking the boxes but I can assure you we are not.”
“I do hope the content of this email gives you some confidence that every effort is being made to ensure that what happened to your family will not happen again and no child should be subject to any abuse regardless of being involved in our sport or not.”
The email also said there will be a “Child Safe Statement of Commitment” released next month, as well as education programs for TA Integrity Unit members and officials who act as first point of contact for complaints about harassment, abuse and other inappropriate behaviour.
The mother of the alleged victim “BXJ”, who featured in last year’s royal commission, said she was still waiting for Tennis Australia to make a high-profile proactive response to the commission findings that slammed Tennis NSW for “abrogating its responsibility” to the player, “completely disregarding (her) welfare and interests”.
BXJ accused her coach, Noel Callaghan, of inappropriate remarks and behaviour. Mr Callaghan has always denied wrongdoing.
Tennis NSW failed to alert BXJ of a report from one of its investigators that was favourable to her case, and did not give that report to police when she subsequently approached them.
Charges were laid against Mr Callaghan but BXJ did not pursue the case, the royal commission was told, because of ill-health.
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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