Swimming Australia under abuse spotlight
Swimming Australia under abuse spotlight

Swimmer Susie O’Neill’s former coach was still allowed to supervise children despite being rejected for a working with children card, a royal commission has heard.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has heard Queensland’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal identified seven potential risk factors in allowing Scott Volkers to work with children in May 2010.

A month later Queensland’s Commission for Children and Young People received complaints Volkers was coaching girls aged 14 - 17 for Swimming Queensland on a trip to China, and at Sleeman Aquatic Centre.

“If Mr Volkers has been or continues to engage in regulated child related employment activities under the commission’s legislation, both he and his employer can be held liable for prosecution action,” the Commission for Children and Young People warned Swimming Queensland in July.

Four women have accused Volkers of sexually abusing them while he was a swimming instructor in the 1980s and 1990s.

Charges were laid in 2002, but subsequently dropped.

The commission heard that after the allegations Volkers made two applications for a “blue card” - essentially a working with children’s check - and received a negative assessment both times.

He appealed against the decision in April 2010.

On September 27 that year, Queensland’s Commission for Children and Young People said Mr Volkers would have to step back his duties to comply with the law.

Mr Volkers subsequently ceased employment with Swimming Queensland and started working as a swimming coach in Brazil.

Queensland’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal noted the charges against Volkers were discontinued not because it was found the conduct didn’t occur, but because there was difficulty in prosecuting matters alleged to have happened years before.

But it highlighted as one of its relevant factors in its decision a recorded statement of Volkers talking to a complainant, in which he admitted he touched a girl’s leg “on both sides”.

“I remember rubbing your leg,” he is recorded as saying to one of his complainants.

“I remember - I do remember it as very - it was high, right up in the groin area and it may have been - or something.

“I don’t know, but I am not saying you’re a liar but I am telling you that I didn’t try to finger you.”

In her opening statement on Monday, council assisting the commission Gail Furness said the hearings will examine the actions taken by the Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions, the Queensland Academy of Sport, Swimming Australia and Swimming Queensland to accusations against Volkers.

The hearings will also examine Swimming Australia’s response to allegations against former national head coach Terry Buck.


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