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A safe sports environment for children

3-minute read

It is important to ensure a safe environment for children who play sport. By law, sporting organisations in Australia are responsible for protecting children from abuse, discrimination and harassment.

A safe environment

Make sure the sporting environment is safe by ensuring:

  • equipment is not broken; there are no uneven surfaces or sharp rubbish
  • your child plays sports that suit their size, age and ability
  • they don’t stay too long in cold water or hot sun
  • they wear clothes suited to the environment

A fair and supportive environment

A child’s emotional environment is just as important as their physical environment. Protect your child’s emotions when playing sport by ensuring:

  • they are not forced or coerced into any type of physical activity
  • they are kept away from anyone who criticises, abuses or shouts at them (including coaches, parents, other players or spectators)
  • the team is fair and the competition is positive
  • you praise your child’s efforts, even if they don’t win

Child protection

Children have a right to be safe and protected from people who are unsuitable to work with them. All states and territories have child protection laws to keep children safe and protect them from abuse.

Parents and families are crucial in providing an early warning system for anything that might be concerning or unusual. You are 'the eyes and ears' of your child’s environment. Here are the basics to make sure your child is properly protected.

  • Everyone should be treated with respect.
  • You should listen and respond to your child, especially if they are telling you they are worried about their safety or that of another child.
  • In most circumstances, a child should not be alone with an adult.
  • Staff and volunteers must not develop any special relationships with children that could be seen as favouritism (such as giving them gifts or special treatment).
  • Adults should not be unnecessarily physical with a child.
  • Adults should not do personal things that the child can do themselves, like changing their clothes.
  • Adults should not talk about adult topics, express personal views about different cultures or races, or use inappropriate language in front of children.
  • No child should be discriminated against because of their culture, race, ethnicity or disability.
  • Adults involved in sporting organisations shouldn't contact the child or the family outside the organisation, including online.

If you are worried that a child is at risk, report it immediately to your state or national sporting or recreation organisation and child protection authority. You can also make a complaint to the president, executive officer, complaint handler or member protection information officer of the club or organisation (if they have one).

Make time to listen to your child. Talk to them about safety from an early age, and help them to understand how their body might feel when something is wrong. (The palms of their hands might be sweaty, and they might have shaky legs or a nervous or nauseous feeling in their stomach.)

Let them know that no one is allowed to touch their private parts, and make sure they understand boundaries and how to say ‘no’ if something is not right.

More information

Visit the 'Play by the Rules' website for a range of articles and resources about child protection in sporting activities.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: February 2020

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