• Building New Habits

    14m 31s

    Shari is the Member Protection Officer for Maccabi Australia and is passionate about sport and recreation being welcoming, inclusive and safe for everyone. She is also the All Abilities Inclusion Coordinator for Maccabi Victoria, and works in the fitness industry with older adults and people with disabilities.

Graphical summary and transcript



People want sport to be fun. No one wants to have to deal with racism and homophobia and bullying and all those sorts of things. But if despite your best efforts, something slips through, you need to be able to turn around to that individual, to their family, or if it comes to it in a court of law and say hand on heart, we did everything we could.

Policies like these often come about as a knee jerk reaction. either to something in your organisation's history or to something a bit more broad and public like the Betrayal of Trust Royal Commission. If you're one of the lucky few organisations that doesn't have a personal story to share in your history, it's just as important that you get your member protection policies and procedures into place so that you don't become another statistic. See, there's two ways to look at everything. And on one hand, you can look at this space and go had such a headache. Why can't people just use some common sense and be decent people? It's not so hard, right? I do get it. I asked myself that regularly. But let's flip it for a minute. What if I said to you that your member protection policies are actually a framework that showcase your organisation's values and your processes and procedures are the avenues used to bring it to life. By having those policies in place you're showing your community and the wider society what's important to you and what kind of an environment and people you want to be nurturing. You're telling every single person involved in your organisation that you value them, you respect them, and you want to give them the tools to handle potentially unpleasant situations which might arise.

Like I said, sometimes things are going to happen. It's a sad truth, but every single one of you has a responsibility to do everything you can to try and minimize that happening. So I've got talked about why we need it. The next thing we need to look at is how we go about creating a policy. I'm really lucky that I'm part of an organisation and a community with a huge amount of knowledge to draw on. The people I can call on for advice include lawyers, psychologists, mediators and people with huge amounts of personal and professional experience. Sounds really great, doesn't it? But here's the thing. You can have all of the best brains in the world in the room, and it doesn't mean that what you come up with is going to work so well in reality, or that it's going to be the right fit for your organization simply jumped to the Big Bang Theory and look at Dr. Sheldon Cooper.

He's an undeniable academic genius. He knows everything about how the world should work as long as everything follows the laws of science. The thing you sometimes take fails to take into account is the fact that human nature is nuanced, we're unpredictable, and we don't always follow the rules. And what looks really, really good on paper doesn't always work so well in reality. Sometimes there are going to be some teething problems and they might come from an internal source. They might come from an external source. I'll give you a quick example. When our member protection policies were put into place before I started, it was decided that every single staff member or volunteer in a Maccabi club needed a working with children check. We were trying to be at the forefront of promoting a culture of being child friendly and not just taking that bare minimum box of child safety. Some people jumped right on board. Some were not so sure and some made us with a little bit of resistance. They wanted to know why we were asking it of them now, and what were we accusing them of? Sure, most of you might have heard those things as well. In the end, we needed to take a step back and have a look if there was any room for compromise. Our policy now states that every club committee member still needs a working with children check. But when it comes to coaches and volunteers, only those who are directly working with under 18's need one. The big broad approach looks great on paper, but a little bit of compromise and specificity worked better in reality. If we look more broadly, we had and we still have an issue as a national organisation that has different legislation in different states and it's very hard to try and come up with nationally consistent policies when you're working in a disjointed framework. So if we're looking at working with children checks and I'm not sure if anyone else has spent as much time reading all different policies as I've ended up doing. But if you're volunteering with your kid's basketball club and you're in Victoria, you don't have to get a check because you're volunteering with your kid's club. But it's perfectly within the rights of an organisation like Maccabi or like Basketball Victoria to ask you to get a check because you're working with other kids, not just your own. If we jump across the country to Western Australia and you'll volunteering with your kids basketball club, you're exempt from getting a check, which means you're actually ineligible to apply for one. So. Yeah. They're the faces I've pulled to it becomes really tricky to try and have that national framework.

The other thing you need to keep in mind when you're creating your policies and I know it's been mentioned a bit today in talking about board and committee makeup is who do you have at the table? Are you consulting people who are coaches and board members and athletes and family members and staff? There's an expression in the disability space, nothing about us without us and are you making sure that you have at the table people of different ages, different genders, different backgrounds, different sexualities, different abilities. It's so important that the policies you're creating are relevant, applicable and accessible to the people that you're trying to work within your clubs.

Have I scared anyone off yet? No. OK, so I know they're trying to implement something like a member protection policy, especially if you're at the start of the journey, can seem really big and daunting. But what you need to try and remember and what you need to get your clubs and committees to understand is that they can actually make your life easier.

It's not just having this big set of rules which sit overhead and make life difficult, but something you want to try and work into your everyday organisational culture. It's not just signing forms and ticking boxes for the sake of it, but it's about giving you and everyone in your organisation a tool kit to handle those sometimes messy situations that might arise. If you have a parent who comes and yells at a coach during training and you don't know what to do. Look at you member protection policies. If you have a coach, she doesn't know how to handle something. One of the kids discloses should be in your member protection policies. If you're all planning an overseas tour for the first time and don't know what you need to take into account with staffing and accommodation, it should all be in there. It's all about trying to work out how you can make the everyday stuff that little bit easier and consistent across the organisation. Now, having said that, like I said, it can be hard to get people on board sometimes, but you need to just stay positive and work with it.

A year and a half or so ago, there was some changes in legislation and liability, and so we sent individual letters to each club outlining what their compliance requirements were. It was probably quite an official legally sounding letter. But we wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page.

Well, we had a few unhappy people. We had people asking why we were creating all this extra work they had to do. We had people say, don't you know, we're so busy, we can't do this. I'm probably my all time favorite. Member protection has nothing to do with us because we're not a junior club. Talk about the message not getting across. I cannot stress enough how important it is to know your audience. Someone who comes into your club today may just accept that that's the way things are, especially in this day and age. But sometimes with your stallwarts you may need to take a bit of a different approach. So we're now contacting clubs individually, talking through what we need from them and what they need from us to help make it happen and anything else they might need in that member protection space.

It's two way communication. It's not a one size fits all approach. It's a whole lot more work for us. But the payoff is worth it. More often than not, clubs are happy to get on board. They just need that little bit of handholding to get them there. They might not have fully understood what the policies were or how it connects to them, or they might have just had the wrong person in the compliance role. That's fine if you can meet them where they're at and take them on the journey. You're going to have a far better result than just setting the standard over here and waiting for them to catch up because you want to frame it as something that people want to be involved in. I know you're probably wondering about the picture. I want you to think about your policies like Coles meetings. Yeah, I want you to think about making them something that people want to be a part of, something that people are going to be talking about, something where people will be worried about missing out, something with different ages and different demographics can connect to it in different ways. And if you've got the budget for some funky colors and a good marketing campaign, that doesn't go astray either.

So if we look back to that time when we sent those letters, we had one particular club who wrote quite a stern response about how dare we accuse them of not doing enough. I hadn't been in the role that long and I'm not going to lie. Some of those e-mails were a little bit intimidating, but if we fast forward, we've had some great conversations, really constructive conversations. We now have a system that works for them. They're probably one of our most compliant clubs. They're one of the biggest advocates of the program. And I want to say they're the first to get up at show and tell and talk about their minis. But really, they're one of the first to get up in front of the other club presidents and talk about how well the system works for them.

And with your member protection stuff, it's really important to celebrate those wins. It's very easy for it to either get lost in boring policy and legislation or for just to turn into this list of the seedy underbelly of your sport and club.

But you want to try and get to a point where you can embrace the process, celebrate the things that work, and if things don't work so well. Learn from the hiccups.

So it was mentioned before that I have two roles of Maccabi and in my other one to look after our Victorian and all abilities program. When I started, I was kind of nominated as the compliance officer. I mean, that makes sense. We have a number of our smaller clubs where the president is the same as the compliance officer because there's not so many people running the club. And surely it doesn't make that big a difference. It does. It really does. See, I had a bit of a messy allegation I had to deal with recently, and in retrospect, I can definitely say I was probably the worst person to be handling it. See, I know all our members, our families and our coaches so well that I'm the last person who can be an objective judge. Thankfully, I had some great people I could call on him with workshopped through some solutions. You know, we know moving forward that it's been a great learning, but made less to say we're adding onto my ever growing to do list. Find a compliance officer for the club.

The last thing I want to jump onto is the idea of reviewing your policy, and for this we're going to leave our Coles minis behind and we're going to think about policies like Pokémon, not an individual Pokemon, because I couldn't name any of them for you, but rather the franchise as a whole. So if you look at Pokemon today, it's not the same as what it was five years or 10 years ago. What started as a game is now a whole plethora of different things. There's games, there's toys, there's movies. There's, I don't know apps, TV shows, clothing, probably a whole host of other things that I wouldn't even know about. No, I'm not saying that you need to make policy plushies, although if you do, please send me one. I'd love to say what it looks like, but have to think about all the different formats that you present your policy in. Do you have hard copy? Do you have soft copy? Is it available in email? In video? Illustrated. Do you need it in different languages? Do you need it in easy English. If we go back to who do you have at the table, you also need to make sure that you presented the format that works for those people. See, I sometimes feel like I'm constantly reworking our policies. And again, it's not just for the fun of it. It's to try and make sure that we can get the message across to as many people as possible in a way that works for them. So we have that chunky policy handbook printed and pdf. We have a two page document that's more appropriate for teenagers. We have an illustrated behavior agreement for under 10's and I'm currently working on trying to redo our entire website. Fun task. But to make it easier for people who just want information on one specific topics, they and have to try and troll through a huge document. What could he have got at the table? Look at who you're trying to work with and look at what format they need to make it accessible.

The other thing when it comes to reviewing your policies is having a look at your content. Don't think you've got to create at all on your own and don't think that you have to do every update on your own. There are some amazing resources out there. Like on Play by the Rules and from a number of the other organizations we've heard from today and they have a lot of great templates and things you can work off and if you can't find what you need online, pick up the phone. I've had people ring me and asked for copies of our documents and ask for advice on different bits of policy and I've done exactly the same thing to other people. You have your sporting community within your club, but you also have a community of people in the sports industry who want to try and make sport a better place. I know it can seem like a really big task, but honestly, just take it one step at a time. Use the community around you. And unlike Lincoln, do you make sure you have your policies in place?