Smith v Gymnastics Australia and Sport Integrity Australia

Dispute relating to the conduct of a coach.


Smith v Gymnastics Australia and Sport Integrity Australia

Matter number:
Date of decision:
Dispute type:
Disciplinary dispute
Dispute resolution method:

This case relates to complaints made by a gymnast and her mother against a coach and was brought to the NST under Gymnastics Australia’s Supplementary Policy for the Management of Complaints relating to conduct covered by the 20/21 Australian Human Rights Commission Review into Gymnastics in Australia (the SCMP). The SCMP was adopted following a review into Gymnastics in Australia by the Australian Human Rights Commission, and established a process for athletes and other persons to make complaints about alleged inappropriate conduct.

The Applicant in the case, Ms Deborah Smith, has over 30 years’ experience coaching gymnasts and has had a managerial role overseeing other coaching staff. Since 2017, she has been a coach at the Allstar Gymnastics Academy in Toowoomba, Queensland. As part of the SCMP process, Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) investigated the complaints made against Ms Smith and provided recommendations to Gymnastics Australia (GA) for their action. As a result of the findings of the SIA investigation, GA proposed a Disciplinary Measure on Ms Smith. Ms Smith did not accept that she had breached any of the relevant policies and disputed the complaints against her, electing to have the Disciplinary Dispute heard in the General Division of the NST.

The case was not an appeal against the findings of SIA. The proceedings amounted to an election by the Applicant to have her dispute determined by the NST ab initio. It is on this basis that the Panel conducted the hearing, and considered in detail the evidence and submissions. Each party was given full opportunity to present its case and to rely upon evidence from witnesses and relevant documents.

The Tribunal considered in detail six allegations and found that three of those were fully established on the probabilities and that Ms Smith had therefore breached relevant versions of GA’s Member Protection Policy and Child Safe Policy. The Tribunal went further to consider the seriousness of the substantiated allegations and imposed sanctions. Three allegations were dismissed.

In the Determination, the Panel looked at what constitutes harassment, bullying and abusive behaviour, especially involving the use of strength training as a disciplinary measure, the use of denigrating language, displaying a lack of care and support, and a lack of adherence to a formal injury management, and the considerations which are relevant in applying a sanction under a Member Protection Policy and Child Safe Policy.