For Netball NZ, having a safeguarding policy is more than a ‘policy tick’, it’s about educating communities to ensure everyone is safe in all aspects of their lives.
Following recommendations made to Sport NZ by the Integrity Working Group in 2020, safeguarding leads at Netball NZ also took the opportunity to update their own policy and look at what it meant for the sport ‘in reality’.
Netball New Zealand Head of Community Ruth Southwood says updating their policy was just a starting point as they wanted to take their actions to the next level.
“We wanted to increase understanding and implementation for not only the things they had to tick off, but understanding that it’s everyone’s joint responsibility to keep children safe in our sport.”
Ruth says their approach to strengthening their safeguarding approach was so much more than a ‘policy tick’.
“We didn’t want it to be a policy that just sat on our website. We wanted to look at how we could bring it to life – and we decided that at its core we had to remove any fear. We then set about making a plan on bringing it to light over the next few years, acknowledging that it will take a little while to get everyone on board.”
Netball New Zealand volunteer advocate and child protection lead Jenna Murie has been leading the NSO’s safeguarding work ever since.
There are 83 centres across the country, most of which are run by volunteers, which became an important consideration.
From safeguarding review outcomes, every centre and zone is required to have two child safeguarding representatives (CSRs) who have been trained in child safeguarding.
“Their role is to raise awareness around safeguarding, identify concerns, collect and record information and then pass that information on. We wanted to be clear we were not asking CSRs to act as social workers or adding a large amount of administration to their day. It’s ‘record and report’ so it doesn’t create extra workload,” says Jenna.
Netball NZ are clear on the reporting aspect, with those trained to be CSRs expected only to gather information and pass it on to the appropriate agency. Over April, May and June this year, workshops have been rolled out to upskill CSRs.
Jenna says they are reframing mindsets around the topic of child safeguarding away from being ‘cautious and guarded’ toward helping and connecting.
“They are not responsible for a young person but a conduit for passing information on,” says Ruth.
“As I underwent training, the eye opener for me was sadly a lot of the abuse will be happening for a child at home, it’s not happening within netball so if we train people to recognise the signs, they can feel comfortable to have those conversations, then maybe we can help make a report and pass it on, which is the job of a CSR. Maybe that action will help that one child,” says Jenna.
Ruth says the organisation wants young people to attend everything, including trainings, games and holiday programmes and have them know there is a fun, safe and supportive environment.
“Sport and netball is about them fronting up to play or train but it’s more than that, it’s making sure our young people know if things aren’t going well somewhere else, they know there is a support system there if ever it’s needed.”