WARNING: This article includes references to suicide which some readers may find upsetting. Reader discretion is advised.
Child abuse in Australian sports is rife at all levels, from small local clubs to elite teams. Recent high-profile cases have highlighted abuse in national sporting institutions, including Gymnastics Australia.
Sadly, Cricket Australia is no different — it has allowed terrible crimes to occur on its watch. Coaches and umpires have been slammed with allegations of child sexual abuse and possessing pornographic material.
Below, we have highlighted a few of the most high-profile stories in the media, but there are undoubtedly more stories that have not yet come to light. Discover the unfortunate truth and contact us to discuss your options if you believe you were abused in your local club. We’re here to help.
Survivors felt powerless to fight back against their cricket coach or to report the assaults
In 2016, the Royal Commission heard impact statements from three men who alleged that their cricket coach, Bob Ross, sexually abused them in their teens. Queensland Police charged Ross with more than 50 child sex offences in 2014, but he committed suicide before the matter could go to court.
One of the survivors was 13-years-old when he was first abused by Ross. He told the Commission he felt powerless to fight off his coach’s advances or report the abuse to the authorities.
“We weren’t allowed to question or argue with an adult. I felt I had to do what Bob said no matter what,” he said.
The survivor said that Ross would give him $50 each time he assaulted him. The survivor suffered permanent internal injuries and psychological damage. He resorted to drugs to cope with the abuse and has since been jailed three times on drug-related offences.
“I would feel disgusting every time Bob abused me. I hated what he did to me. I just buried it, and it stayed buried, but it started eating me up inside. When I was about 16 years old, I began to use drugs just to deal with what he did to me.”
Another survivor was nine-years-old when Ross abused him in the 1980s. He told the Commission that rumours about Ross were common in his country town, which cannot be named for legal reasons.
“Throughout the school and the cricket club, there were running jokes between the boys that Bob was a kiddy fiddler. I was afraid of becoming part of the joke.”
The survivor went on to suffer from drug and alcohol abuse and struggled with anger management problems. He described Ross as “a nasty memory” that he “went to war with every day”.
“Sexual abuse destroys every little aspect of your mind, body and soul. When you peel back the layers of a sexual abuse victim, you find a web of utter destruction.”
Former elite junior cricketer has sued Cricket Australia over sexual abuse allegations
Former under-19s cricketer Jamie Mitchell sued Cricket Australia in June 2022 for the alleged sexual abuse he experienced during the Australian under-19 tour of India and Sri Lanka in 1985.
The alleged abuse occurred on the last night of the tour in Colombo. Jamie fell ill and was sedated by the team’s doctor, Malcolm McKenzie, who told Jamie’s teammates that he was in quarantine and no one was allowed in Jamie’s room for 10 hours. Jamie was allegedly assaulted by McKenzie in this time.
ABC Sport completed an investigative piece on Dr McKenzie and interviewed a number of men who claim Dr McKenzie abused them as teenagers in the 1970s and 1980s. Dr McKenzie was the boys’ trusted family doctor, and the alleged abuse occurred under the guise of medical treatment.
Dr McKenzie also had close relationships with Indian and Sri Lankan boys. He died in 1998.
Jamie’s story has since become the focus of an Australian Federal Police investigation. No charges have been laid against Cricket Australia.
Predators still lurk in local clubs
In October 2022, the South Australian Cricket Association (SACA) confirmed one of their umpires had been charged with possessing and controlling child abuse material. He was also charged with failing to disclose his working with children status.
“There is no suggestion that the offences relate to cricket in South Australia or the participation of children in cricket,” SACA said in a statement.
“Upon notification, SACA immediately terminated the umpire’s engagement.”
Prior to this event, SACA believed umpires in its senior community competitions didn’t need working with children checks, even though some of the players were children.
Following the arrest, SA Police said they would work with sporting clubs in Adelaide to ensure all club members had working with children checks ahead of games the following weekend. SACA faced a $120,000 fine, but no action was taken against the association.
Compensation is available for victims of cricket and sports abuse
As of October 2022, Western Australia is the only state cricketing association to join the National Redress Scheme. Cricket Tasmania and Queensland have refused to comment or join. South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria have either expressed interest in joining or are in the onboarding process with the Scheme.
Many compensation pathways are available, regardless of whether your club or state association has joined the National Redress Scheme. Contact the team at Kelso Lawyers to discuss your options. We have helped hundreds of institutional abuse survivors to seek compensation and can advise you on the best option for your specific circumstances.
Get the justice you deserve with Kelso Lawyers. We want to hear your story. Call (02) 4907 4200 or complete the online form before you accept payment from the National Redress Scheme.
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