Safeguarding for Surf Life Saving Australia is ‘paramount’
The unique sport of Surf Life Saving, is where participants dedicate their time to protecting others. But how do they protect their participants?
With over 52,000 kilometres of Australian coastline, comprising 12,000 beaches hosting around 500 million beach visitations annually, it’s no secret that spending time at the beach is a very popular pastime for many Australians and is often used to symbolise the Aussie way of life.
Surf lifesaving in Australia is as symbolic as the beaches themselves, with volunteers dedicating their time to keeping our beach enthusiasts safe through coastal safety, education, and recreational programs.
Uniquely, these volunteers are also sport participants themselves competing in events designed to test vital skills needed to save lives on Australian beaches. Their athletes are often multi-disciplinary with many also dabbling in Rowing, Kayaking, Paddling and Swimming, representing Australia at the Olympics. As with any recreational activity it’s essential we keep them safe while they’re protecting others.
Adam Weir, CEO of Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA), explains how they keep their sport fair and safe from integrity threats, through a national set of Sport Integrity Policies.
“Our volunteer surf lifesavers perform almost 10,000 rescues annually, many of which are performed by our surf sport athletes during their volunteer patrols at their local club. It makes the sense of community and teamwork in our sports something really special,” says Adam.
“Standardised member protection and integrity policies have been a federal government requirement since the 1990s. Having consistent policies across the movement, from grassroots to national, is helpful given the breadth and size across the country. The key piece for SLS is communicating the importance of integrity matters across all SLS entities as well as educating all our personnel on the policy framework and how it works.
“Surf Life Saving has had a robust member protection policy with its associated complaints handling process since the mid-1990s. This policy has been refined with the implementation of an online complaints management system. We are fortunate to have an Integrity Officer who together with our legal team triage and manage complaints. This ensures issues are managed at the appropriate level within Surf Life Saving. This position is funded by SLS and replicated, when possible, at state level.
“Safeguarding children is paramount for us, and we strive really hard as a movement to protect our youth. Protecting member information and educating our complaints managers are also current areas we are focusing on.”
Sport Integrity Australia Director of Sport Partnerships, Linda Muir, agrees that Surf Life Saving is undoubtedly a unique sport with a different structure to other Australian sports.
“SLS has a unique structure and has been very proactive in ensuring the sport’s policy framework covers the movement right across the country. SLS has led the way as the first sport to adopt or update policies to meet or exceed Sport Integrity Australia Sport Integrity Policy ‘Standards’. We acknowledge that one size does not necessarily fit all, which is why the ‘Standards’ are provided as an alternative,” Linda said.
“Derived from the National Integrity Framework, the ‘Standards’ have been created to inform the development of integrity frameworks and policies for sporting organisations that are not able or choose not to adopt the Framework.
“It’s just another way we are all working together to keep sport safe and fair for everyone involved.”
Established in 1907, Surf Life Saving Australia is the national sporting organisation that brings together all surf lifesaving clubs from its seven State and Territory Centres. For more information head to their website www.sls.com.au