Gymnastics Australia statement 

03 May 2021 

The Australian Human Rights Commission has today published their report following their independent review of the culture and practices of gymnastics in Australia. Gymnastics Australia commissioned the independent review in August 2020 in response to reports from the gymnastics community of unacceptable personal experiences. The report was commissioned to better understand the sport’s culture, athlete experience and any barriers to reporting misconduct or abuse – right across the sport from local clubs to states and territories and at the national level.

The report is confronting, identifying systemic issues that affect athlete experience and wellbeing at all levels of the sport including a focus on ‘winning-at-all-costs’, silencing of the athlete voice, an unhealthy focus on the ‘ideal body’, particularly for young female athletes, and an acceptance of archaic and authoritarian coaching practises. The report also references experiences from members of the gymnastics community of abuse that are deeply concerning.

Gymnastics Australia unreservedly apologises to all athletes and family members who have experienced any form of abuse participating in the sport. We also thank the athletes and other community members who engaged in the review process and acknowledge their bravery in doing so.

Gymnastics Australia thanks the Australian Human Rights Commission for its considered findings and will adopt all 12 recommendations contained in the report. We look forward to working with our state & territory associations, clubs and athlete community and also Sport Integrity Australia as part of this process.

The Board of Gymnastics Australia will oversee the response to the report. The Gymnastics Australia Integrity Committee, that was established last year, will provide oversight of the implementation of the recommendations. We will regularly and transparently update the community on our progress.

While important work has been undertaken in recent years to improve policies, education and support mechanisms for our athletes and coaches across child safety and athlete wellbeing, there is clearly more to be done. The Gymnastics Australia Board and management acknowledge this work needs to be underpinned by transformational cultural change across all levels of gymnastics in Australia.

We have an unwavering commitment to provide an environment that respects the rights and supports the wellbeing of every participant from the grass roots through to the state and national levels of the sport. We want a sport where the athlete is safe, empowered and their experience is one of personal fulfilment.

We would encourage anyone who has concerns about their experience in gymnastics or requires support to contact our Child Safe line on 03 8698 9700 or email childsafety@gymnastics.org.au.

Statement ends

Further information: 
A full copy of the Australian Human Rights Commission report is available at gymnastics.org.au

Australian Human Rights Commission Report – Key Findings

1. Current coaching practices create a risk of abuse and harm to athletes. Additionally, hiring practices for coaching staff lack accountability and there are inconsistent policies and systems to regulate their behaviour.
2. There is insufficient attention to the understanding and prevention of the full range of behaviours that can constitute child abuse and neglect in gymnastics.
3. A focus on ‘winning-at-all-costs’ and an acceptance of negative and abusive coaching behaviours has resulted in the silencing of the athlete voice and an increased risk of abuse and harm with significant short- and long-term impacts to gymnasts.
4. There is an ongoing focus in gymnastics on the ‘ideal body’, especially for young female athletes. This, in addition to inappropriate and harmful weight management and body shaming practices, can result in the development of eating disorders and disordered eating which continue long after the athlete has left the sport.
5. Gymnastics at all levels has not appropriately and adequately addressed complaints of abuse and harm and are not effectively safeguarding children and young people. Contributing factors include a lack of internal expertise and resources and complicated governance structure.  

Australian Human Rights Commission Report - 12 Recommendations
1. Transform education to skills development for coaches
2. Strengthen coach engagement and accountability
3. Develop a national social media policy
4. Broaden the sport’s understanding of child abuse and neglect
5. Encourage and promote athlete empowerment and participation
6. Provide a formal acknowledgement and apology to all members of the gymnastics community in Australia who have experienced any form of abuse in the sport
7. Develop a skills-based training and support program for all athletes to prevent and address eating disorders and disordered eating
8. Develop and refine resources relating to body image, weight management practises and eating disorders, to improve consistency and support effective implementation
9. Investigate all matters regarding child abuse, neglect, misconduct, bullying, sexual harassment, and assault externally of the sport
10. Establish interim and ongoing oversight over relevant complaints at all levels of the sport
11. Establish a toll-free triage, referral and reporting telephone service operated by SIA
12. Align current governance with Sport Australia’s Sport Governance Principles more consistently and effectively