Australia inquiry examines swim coach child sex abuse claims

Australia inquiry examines swim coach child sex abuse claims
File photo of a swimming pool.

SYDNEY - An Australian national inquiry into child sex abuse switched its focus Monday from the Catholic Church to the professional swimming community and how it reacted to allegations against two Olympic coaches.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was established in 2012 to investigate allegations of widespread paedophilia, mostly in the church.

Its hearings have covered harrowing claims of abuse involving places of worship, orphanages, community groups and schools.

On Monday it began examining Swimming Australia and the reaction of other authorities to claims made against Olympic coaches Scott Volkers and Terry Buck dating from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Former national women's coach Volkers was accused in early 2002 of the abuse of teenage girls he coached in the mid-1980s. The charges were dropped six months later, a decision one victim called "shocking".

Reports said Volkers, who denies the allegations, is currently training young swimmers in Brazil.

Allegations of child sex abuse against Buck surfaced more than a decade ago. A criminal case was never pursued and he died in 2005.

Buck represented Australia at the Olympics as a swimmer at the 1964 Tokyo Games, and was then head swimming coach at the 1984 Games and swimming team manager in Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in 1996.

The hearings are set to examine the actions taken by the Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the Queensland Academy of Sport, Swimming Australia and Swimming Queensland.

Child advocacy group Bravehearts supported alleged victims when they originally made their claims and is now helping them through the royal commission.

Chief executive Hetty Johnston told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation she was pleased the inquiry into the Volkers case was going ahead.

"Well, I'm very interested to see how they review the way the matter was handled right from the outset, all the way through," she said.

"When the allegation was made, how that was handled by police then, how it was handled by the DPP... I think was totally appalling."

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