Truth, Integrity and Reconciliation

I have been thinking about last week’s press conference held by Swimming Australia.
At that conference, Swimming Australia announced that:

the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay team will face the newly formed Integrity Panel following their admission of guilt in relation to a bonding session held in Manchester at the staging camp prior to the Olympic Games.

It was a busy week.
Swimming Australia made the contents of its Independent Review of performance at the 2012 Olympic Games available under a Creative Commons 3.0 license. (“Following the results of the London 2012 Olympic Games, the Board of Swimming Australia Limited (SAL), in partnership with the Australian Sports Commission (ASC), commissioned an independent review of the design, delivery and administration of swimming’s High Performance Programs to gather and evaluate evidence about their strengths and weaknesses and provide recommendations to SAL on how best to address them.”)
In addition, Swimming Australia made available the findings of the Bluestone Edge review. The purpose this review was “to explore a range of matters relating to culture including: the overall environment in and out of the pool, challenges faced, success factors, behaviors and leadership practices in Australian Olympic swimming in the context of the London Olympics 2012.”  Included in the twenty-five recommendations are:
The Bluestone Review provides for consideration 25 wide-ranging recommendations and some of the key recommendations on culture include:

  • Create an ‘ethical framework’ for organisation from the Board to the swim team using a thorough consultative process.
  • Update and refresh relevant internal codes of conduct for swimmers, coaches and staff, and team rules specific to camps and events aligned to the ethical framework.
  • Get clear about the consequences for people (swimmers, coaches, staff, the Board) who undermine the internal community through disruptive and unacceptable behavior that is contrary to the ethical framework, codes of conduct and rules and be prepared to follow through with those consequences without exception.

In part, I have been thinking about the issues that have arisen in swimming as the events have been running alongside a unit, Sport Coaching Pedagogy, I am facilitating at the University of Canberra. (Week 1 coincided with the ACC press conference on Drugs in Australian Sport.)
But mainly I have been thinking about the issues because of Jared and Katie. Jared is 21 and Katie was 19.
On the drive home from Canberra to Braidwood, I pass a large rock at the side of the road near Larbert. This rock is a social space where people in the neighbourhood announce births, birthdays, weddings and end of school years.
For the last month, the rock has carried news of Jared’s 21st birthday on 2 February. As with all these announcements I was delighted to learn of Jared’s birthday. At the bottom of the rock, the signwriter had added “In Afghanistan”. Normally these signs on the rock last a week. Jared’s birthday announcement has been there for a month with an evident agreement that this is a very important announcement. Each time I pass the rock I think about the pride and fear embedded in the birthday wishes.
Katie was 19 years old when she was killed whilst fighting a fire in Victorian Alps. She and a colleague, Steven Kadar, were working on the Harrietville blaze when a tree fell on their vehicle in the Buckland Valley. Steven died in the accident too.
4518984-3x4-340x453The ABC reported that Katie grew up on a dairy farm, had been with the Department of Sustainability and Environment for two seasons. It was her first paid job. Katie’s family shared stories of “a happy, caring and genuine ‘farm girl’ who had a great sense of humour”.
Katie planned to attend Deakin University, Geelong, to undertake a science degree with a hope of getting into veterinary science. “Her interest in veterinary science stemmed from her love for animals, especially horses.”
“Her family remembers even from a young age having to call her in from the bush at dusk to return home for dinner. She had been in the bush riding her horse, often with her dog and cat in tow.”
Katie’s funeral was attended by 500 mourners.
As I watched Tommaso, James, Cameron, James, Eamon and Matthew last Friday I was struck forcefully by the responsibility we have given to young people. I wondered what Jared and Katie might have thought about all this.
I wondered where is our sense of perspective and what constitutes integrity.
In sport we have elevated invented activities to enormous social significance. The events of the last few weeks have made me think more than ever about what we have done to sport. In my lifetime the playfulness of sport and the innocence of competition have been transformed.
I am not sure whether this is just my age but I am thinking that if we are to talk about truth, integrity and reconciliation we need to support our young people wherever they are. We have made life very difficult for them … particularly if we divest ourselves of any responsibility for their socialisation.
I am thinking about these issues far from the dust of Afghanistan, the fires in the Buckland Valley and a very long way from the glare of spotlights. I do know that it is our responsibility.
Photo Credit
Katie Peters (Department of Sustainability and Environment)



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