Child Safeguarding Review with the Western Bulldogs Community Foundation
More than just a football club, the Western Bulldogs has a long-standing history as the community club of the AFL. The Western Bulldogs Community Foundation (WBCF) is the community services arm of the club that exists to deliver innovative and engaging community services for individuals and families residing in Victoria’s West and delivers much needed programs to over 3,500 people annually. WBCF delivers programs across Melbourne and Victoria’s West to a range of young people from diverse backgrounds.
WBCF engaged Child Wise in 2019 to undertake a review of their youth programs to ensure a safe environment for young people and staff. WBCF also wanted to ensure that their programs meet the requirements of the Victorian Child Safe Standards with a strong commitment towards demonstrating best practice.
For the first time the Western Bulldogs undertook a whole of organisation review of their child safe standards. With the support of Child Wise, the Football Club and Community Foundation came together to review policies, procedures and practices that will ensure a safe and welcoming environment for young people across all Western Bulldogs programs.
“The review has seen us start our journey with young people at the centre of all work. It was instrumental for Child Wise to meet key members of our Executive and ensure that the review was supported by Club and Foundation leadership. This has made the changes to programs and practice smoother and confirms the topic of child safe standards at all key meetings that relate to young people (including Board, Executive and team).” – WBCF
Child Wise undertook a robust child safeguarding review to assess strengths, gaps and opportunities across the following activities:
- A desktop review of documents, including policies and procedures;
- Leadership interviews;
- Stakeholder engagement including focus groups and surveys with staff, volunteers, children, young people and their carers; and
- Site visits.
Child Wise worked with WBCF in establishing an improvement plan based on the findings of the review and building child safeguarding capacity across the organisation.
The review assisted us in understanding the need to be more targeted and purposeful in the design of our programs. By reducing age brackets and developing fit-for-purpose policy and program handbooks, families that require more nuanced support are now able to feel more confident and comfortable in WBCF programs.
Following the recommendations provided by Child Wise, the Western Bulldogs recognised how important it was to empower the voice of young people within the organisation. With opportunities for young people to assist with program design a common feature across all programs, a highlight was the creation of the AFL’s first club-based youth advisory group in October 2020 – Bark for Youth. Bark for Youth is a youth driven initiative made up of 12 participants from across all WBCF youth programs that represent the spectrum of young people – from all cultural backgrounds, having diverse abilities and representing regional areas. Bark for Youth have led a range of projects culminating in the design and delivery of all 2021 Victorian Youth Week activities.
“The Western Bulldogs are greatly appreciative of the support shown by Child Wise in the review and improvement of our practice to ensure we meet the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations. Child Wise consultants have provided our organisation with amazing support through consultation, review and redevelopment of our policies and procedures. Through an improvement process that has centred around staff training and a continual improvement process, we are confident that we are continuing on the right track to ensure a child safe environment across our Club.”
Find out more about our work with sporting organisations, or contact us to speak to one of our child safeguarding experts.