Tennis NSW failures over abuse: inquiry

Megan Neil

Tennis NSW completely disregarded a rising star's welfare and failed to consider the risk its most senior coach may pose to other young players after her sexual abuse complaint, a royal commission says.

The state's peak tennis body abrogated its responsibility to the player and took no action even though its board believed her allegations she was abused by her coach Noel Callaghan in 1997 to 1998, the inquiry found.

The promising young player quit the sport and was not offered any support by Tennis NSW, while Mr Callaghan resumed his duties as state coach after the 1999 internal investigation.

The player, BXJ, was not told the investigator had found it was more likely than not that her allegations were true and that the board of Tennis NSW believed her.

Tennis NSW told BXJ it had decided to take no further action and invited her to take her complaint to the police or the Equal Opportunity Tribunal.

In doing so, the royal commission found, Tennis NSW abrogated its responsibility to BXJ and transferred the burden of pursuing the complaint to her.

"Tennis NSW completely disregarded BXJ's welfare and interests," said its report, released on Wednesday.

"Tennis NSW unreasonably failed to consider the risk that Mr Callaghan may present to other young players."

Mr Callaghan, who resigned from Tennis NSW in 2000, was charged with sex offences against BXJ and another two female players but was not convicted. He has always denied all allegations.

Tennis NSW president Gregory Doyle said the organisation reiterated its unreserved apology to BXJ, made after the commission's April public hearing.

"Tennis NSW acknowledges that the response to her at the time was entirely inadequate and that she should have been supported with greater attention and compassion when she made allegations," Mr Doyle said.

"Similarly those who also brought further matters to the attention of Tennis NSW at the time should also have been properly responded to and regrettably this did not happen."

The commission said assistant state coach Amanda Chaplin was victimised by her superior Mr Callaghan, his family and close associates from the time she first made Tennis NSW aware of BXJ's allegations.

Tennis NSW failed to take appropriate steps to protect Ms Chaplin from victimisation, the inquiry found.

The commission noted Tennis NSW's investigation report substantiated the serious allegations against Mr Callaghan and referred to four people having expressed current concerns about the nature of his relationship with another young female junior tennis player.

The investigation report also noted BXJ's female tennis coach BXD alleged she too had been abused by Mr Callaghan when she was a junior.

Mr Callagahan was acquitted of abusing BXD while indecent assault charges relating to another former junior player were dismissed.

The charges in BXJ's case were withdrawn in 2004 because she was too ill to proceed.

The commission said the interviewing solicitor asked BXJ highly personal and inappropriate questions during the Tennis NSW investigation.

She became extremely distressed and ran away from home for a number of weeks.

BXJ, who had ambitions of playing at Wimbledon, never played tennis again.

Mr Callaghan has previously worked with top players such as Sam Stosur and Jelena Dokic and now coaches overseas.