Today, the Australian Sports Commission announced a restorative program to assist former Australian Institute of Sport scholarship athletes.
Today, the Australian Sports Commission announced a restorative program to assist former Australian Institute of Sport scholarship athletes who experienced harm as a result of inappropriate practices or abuse during their time at the AIS.
Scholarship athletes who were part of the AIS from 1981 to 2013 are eligible to apply the ASC Restorative Program. It is concerning, that the definition of those who are eligible to participate in the Restorative Program is limited only to those who were on a scholarship at the AIS during the relevant time, however, those athletes whose parents paid for them to train at the AIS during that same period, are not eligible to participate in the program at the current time.
The announcement of this scheme is a culmination of the bravery shown by the athletes who came forward and called out this behaviour, in particular the gymnasts who spoke out after the release of “Athlete A,’ and resulted in the AHRC report which also validated their experiences at the AIS.
The reparation payment amounts available under the ASC Restorative Program are currently unclear. Despite this, making a report to the ASC Restorative Program does not affect any other legal entitlements available to the reportee.
In addition, the scheme includes access to counselling and well-being services and participation in a restorative engagement. Restorative engagement is a process of formal engagement which provides athletes with an opportunity to speak to their experience and its impact (at the time and now) with a senior leader of the ASC. This is a real opportunity for the ASC to use the information provided by athletes during these sessions to effect cultural change within the organisation.
From the information available at present, the ASC Restorative Program is markedly similar the Defence Reparation Scheme, administered by the Commonwealth Ombudsman which we believe is very positive.
As someone who has assisted many serving members of Defence to report their experiences of abuse and harm during their service to the Commonwealth Ombudsman, if the Australian Sports Commission follows the path previously laid by Defence, then they will be in a position to learn from these reports, effect cultural change and start making amends for the harm suffered by many of these athletes.
It is currently expected that the ASC Restorative Program will run until 30 June 2024.