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ChildFund and Oceania Rugby expand partnership to keep everyone safe in rugby across the region

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Child-focused international aid agency ChildFund and Oceania Rugby will expand their program to strengthen safeguarding systems across rugby to Samoa, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, following commencement in Nauru in February 2020.

The wellbeing of young people participating in sport has become an increasing focus among International Sports Federations and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which has recognised the importance of establishing policies and procedures to ensure children and adults participating in sport activities at all levels are safe from all types of harm and abuse.

As a Regional Association of World Rugby, Oceania Rugby is committed to ensuring rugby is a safe sport for everyone across the region both on and off the field.

The Safeguarding in Sport Project was first launched in late 2019, with ChildFund providing technical expertise, tools, training and support to Oceania Rugby to build safeguarding systems in-line with international best practice.

Oceania Rugby General Manager Bruce Cook said that rugby is committed to providing a positive and high-quality experience in all forms and at all levels of the game that starts with a foundation of safety.

“Working with ChildFund, Oceania Rugby is committed to establishing a culture and systems that prioritises safeguarding for all participants, and equally, we are committed to supporting our Member Unions to do the same,” Cook said.

The Safeguarding in Sport Project has 4 key objectives:

  • To create and sustain safe environments for children in sport through the development of safeguarding standards and processes at the regional and national level;
  • To address negative social norms with the aim of fostering positive behaviours and deterring harmful ones;
  • To establish a strong evidence base to strengthen learning and inform further development of safeguarding in sport initiatives (with a focus on Oceania); and
  • To support National Governing Bodies in establishing links with formal and informal service providers to support case management and response.

ChildFund Sport for Development Director Chris Mastaglio said: “Oceania Rugby’s determination to build an environment and supporting systems where all players – but particularly children – can thrive and feel safe is to be commended.

“We are really excited to be continuing our partnership with Oceania Rugby and their Member Unions in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Samoa and Solomon Islands to ensure that everyone engaging in rugby across the region will benefit from a safer environment, both physically and emotionally.”

The Safeguarding in Sport Project builds on learning and resources developed by ChildFund Australia through work with more than 30 sports organisations around the world.

ChildFund is recognised as a Pioneer Organisation in the International Safeguards for Children in Sport and 2017 was awarded the UNICEF Safeguarding Children in Sport Award at the Beyond Sport Global Awards in recognition of its work supporting sporting bodies to improve safeguarding practices.

As the regional governing body of World Rugby, Oceania Rugby has committed to supporting members to strengthen their safeguarding systems at all levels.

ChildFund Australia works in developing countries to create community and systems change which enables vulnerable children and young people, in all their diversity, to assert and realise their rights.

While we do not deliver programs in Australia at this stage, as a child-focused development organisation we are committed to ending violence against children globally in all its forms. The ChildFund Alliance actively contributed to the positioning of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 16.2 as a core element within the 2030 agenda.

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders community leaders have said that the Black Lives Matter protests across the United States reflect a similar history and story of persistent injustice. We hope that the recent protests occurring across Australia are the beginning of a renewed public conversation.

ChildFund has decades of experience working with children and young people in disadvantaged communities and has gained valuable insights.

We understand the fundamental importance of children feeling connected to their communities and living in an environment which is free from harm, including institutionalised violence.

In Australia, the extent to which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people experience police violence, and the rate at which they are being incarcerated, has reached a crisis point. This has been verified by multiple public commissions and inquiries.

We know that feeling safe is critical to a child’s healthy physical and emotional development. A child growing up in an environment where they feel protected is more likely to do well at school, have healthy social relationships with friends and family, and achieve economic independence as adults.

In our work globally, ChildFund’s programs address the root causes of inequality. We know that history matters.

Australia’s past includes a series of failed policies that have caused intergenerational stress for thousands of Aboriginal mothers, fathers, children and their elders.

Today, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people continue to experience stark disadvantage in comparison to their non-Indigenous peers. This includes higher rates of poverty and infant mortality, poorer health, shorter life expectancy, and lower levels of education and employment.

As of February 2020, Australia is only on track for two out of its seven Close the Gap targets.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children belong to living cultures that have been maintained for over 60,000 years. There is deep knowledge about ways forward – we in Australia must be committed to careful listening.

ChildFund unequivocally supports the Uluru Statement and the Redfern Statement. We view the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people as profoundly important in designing Australia’s future.

In addition to current efforts, we call on the Australian Government to make the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children an urgent, national priority through concrete commitments to comprehensive child protection and youth justice reform.

We also call on all Australians to continue these conversations in your homes and to engage in the emerging public discourse, led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders, elders, and young people.

More importantly, we encourage you to deeply listen to the stories and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders community leaders and young people.