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Child sexual abuse Royal Commission shifts inquiry to swimming coaches
Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has begun its investigations into allegations that three swimming coaches abused children under their care from the 1960s to 1980s and the response of Swimming Australia.
The Commission yesterday (Monday 7th July) heard evidence from an alleged victim of former national swimming coach Scott Volkers.
Charges laid against Volkers, a former Olympic coach, were dramatically dropped in 2002 after he had been committed to stand trial in Queensland.
The hearing is examining how Swimming Australia, Queensland swimming associations and public prosecutors responded to the allegations of abuse.
Julie Gilbert, Kylie Rogers and Simone Boyce each allege they were abused between the ages of 12 and 14 while swimming in Volkers' training squad in the 1980s and 1990s.
Gilbert told the Royal Commission she was disappointed the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had accepted untested witness statements in its decision to drop the charges after Mr Volkers had been committed to stand trial
She stated "I felt that this interaction with the DPP was a process of re-victimisation.
"Instead of supporting me, I felt the DPP placed blame on me by questioning my credibility and character."
Within a month of the charges being dropped, Mr Volkers was appointed head coach of the national women's swim team.
Gilbert was one of three former pupils of Volkers who were part of the initial case.
She told the hearing how she stopped competitive swimming after the abuse, effectively ending a promising career, and that she developed an eating disorder, adding that she felt abandoned by the swimming community.
Gilbert added "at no time has anyone from any Australian or Queensland swimming organisation called me to talk about Scott Volkers' sexual abuse of me.
"Because of this, I feel that they decided to side with him, rather than with me, as the victim."
All three women described the toll the alleged abuse has taken.
The Commission also heard that Volkers had two applications for a blue card - which is needed for working with children - rejected. However, he was still employed by Swimming Australia and Swimming Queensland until 2010.
He then moved to Brazil, where he is still working as a coach. He has consistently denied the allegations against him.
Volkers's lawyer, Peter Shields, has told the ABC that his client asserts his innocence and believes those accused of sexual assault should have their identities protected as victims do, as this renewed scrutiny will have a profound effect on his professional and personal life.
The commission is also investigating responses to claims of abuse against two other coaches, Terry Buck and Steve Roser.
A victim of Roser, who was convicted of indecent assault while at the Scone Swimming Club in the NSW Hunter Valley, told the hearing "the abuse committed against me by Stephen Roser occurred during swimming training sessions in the pool, and also in the clubhouse beneath the pool grandstand."
Swimming Australia says it completely supports the Royal Commission's aim of creating a safe environment for children and is cooperating fully with the inquiry.
A total of 17 witnesses will be called, including five former swimming students.
The hearing continues.
For more information on the Swimming Australia Child Welfare Policy and Member Welfare Policy go to www.swimming.org.au
For more information on The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse go to www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au
3rd July 2014 - YMCA NSW apologises for failing to protect children
26th June 2014 - Royal Commission announces Swimming Australia investigation
20th February 2013 - Second report slams management of Australian swimming
9th September 2009 - Elite Swimming Loses Coaches: Contracts to Blame?
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