Safeguarding Children Collaboration With Sport NZ Represents A Huge Step Towards Safety For NZ Children – Safeguarding Children Initiative

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Nelson-based charity Safeguarding Children has achieved a huge step towards its aim of keeping Aotearoa’s children safe from abuse and neglect due to a major new collaboration with Sport NZ.

Safeguarding Children is a leading New Zealand provider of child safeguarding training and guidance with a team of professionals based in Nelson and offshore.

Working closely with Sport NZ, Safeguarding Children has developed an interactive child protection e-learning course and resources with the potential to reach an estimated 1.3 million New Zealanders working with children as volunteers or as professionals in sport and recreation. These form part of a broader Community Guidance Portal, launched last week by Sport NZ for all those operating in the sector, from grassroots to elite level.

“This is the result of Safeguarding Children spending several years working with the sector,” says Willow Duffy. “That experience gave us a unique insight into the challenges the sport and recreation sector faces in protecting and safeguarding children.

“While the training and guidance provided in the online resources portal is not a magic wand, it is a powerful first step. As a children’s advocate and independent provider of expertise on child safeguarding, we want to see an ongoing commitment from the sport and recreation sector to embed and maintain these high standards.

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“The next step in making a difference for our children is a meaningful change in the culture in the sector and seeing practices for what they are. For example, if an organisation fails to safely recruit that is neglect, and bullying and harassment is physical and emotional abuse. In our experience calling out behaviour for what it really is the first step in creating cultural change.”

Duffy says that the team at Sport NZ are to be commended for stepping up to the challenge and seeking out the guidance and expertise needed to provide the tools to keep children safe.

“Sport NZ has grasped the nettle and removed the greatest barrier to people accessing training, and that is cost. Providing high-quality free training across every sector is the way forward. If every sector in New Zealand did the same thing, our children would be safer.”

Sport NZ’s General Manager of Partnerships and Communications, Jennah Wootten, says its Community Guidance Portal is about equipping everyone working within the sector with tools and materials to help them understand how they can play their part in keeping sport and recreation safe, fair, and inclusive for all New Zealanders.

“We want everyone in New Zealand, but particularly our tamariki and rangatahi, to realise the benefits of being active, whether that’s improved physical and mental health or being more socially connected,” says Wootten. “Working against this are issues such as safety, discrimination and corruption, and the Community Guidance Portal is one of several initiatives that we hope will help to mitigate these risks.”

“Our partnership with Safeguarding Children means there are now information, policies, and e-learning modules that are free to use for everyone involved in the delivery of sport and recreation, and we encourage people to visit the portal and see how it can help them and their networks.”

Duffy says that all of us have a responsibility to protect children and young people and a step everyone can now take is to visit the child safeguarding section of the portal on the Sport NZ website.

“If every person in New Zealand who is involved in the sport and recreation sector took an hour out of their day to complete the e-learning course imagine the power of all those people in New Zealand advocating in an informed way for children.”

The collaboration is particularly meaningful, says Duffy, because of a constant stream of stories about child abuse and neglect that dominate our media.

“We know that the safety of our children is a very real and pressing issue for New Zealanders to address. We urgently need to improve legislation, such as the Children’s Act 2014, to better protect our children. Our organisation is working hard to highlight this need alongside the Children’s Commissioner and others. But until the legislation is dramatically improved and vigorously enforced, we all have to do what is within our personal power to protect the children we and others work with. Participating in training with Safeguarding Children is an important part of that picture and the Sport NZ initiative greatly improves access to that training for many people.”

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