October 5 – Football Australia has responded to a report of indecent assault, sexual assault and an on-going toxic culture in the national team women’s game, saying that any formal complaint through the appropriate channels will be investigated.
The revelations exposed by the Sydney Daily Telegraph come from legendary striker Lisa de Vanna and a number of former national team players.
De Vanna told the paper of one incident where she alleges a teammate pulled her down from behind and she was dry-humped, prompting the star striker to then carry a knife for personal protection. Her story is corroborated by other former players who witnessed the harassment.
“There needs to be consequences,” De Vanna told the Sydney Daily Telegraph.
“There needs to be accountability. I have seen cultural problems at all levels throughout the years – from men and women – and girls coming through need to be brave and know they are not alone.
“It’s a sensitive topic and it takes a brave and courageous person to speak up.
“Have I been sexually harassed? Yes. Have I been bullied? Yes. Ostracised? Yes. Have I seen things that have made me uncomfortable? Yes.
“In any sporting organisation and in any environment, grooming, preying and unprofessional behaviour makes me sick.
“As a youngster and a player I didn’t know how to address this … but it is still happening across all levels and it’s time to speak up.”
The revelations come at a key moment for Australian women’s football which is expanding its professional structure, and as the federation prepares to co-host the Women’s World Cup in 2023.
In 2019 the federation commissioned an ‘Independent Review of National Teams Management’ which made a series of recommendations to improve standards – including the culture within national teams.
“Since then, we have implemented at least 75% of the recommendations from the review and we are in the process of implementing the balance. Further, we intend to go beyond the recommendations in the report as we set about addressing the cultural issues of the past and putting Australian football – both women’s and men’s – on a path to continual improvement and sustainable success on and off the field…” said a federation statement.
Outlining the changes in terms of representation of the women’s game within the governing body and a long-term commitment to the women’s game through the federation’s Legacy ‘23 plan, the statement continued: “Australian football takes a zero-tolerance approach to any conduct which breaches the standards and values expected of people involved in the game. To that end, we encourage anyone to bring forward their concerns through Football Australia’s formal complaints process under the Member Protection Framework, with the knowledge that any such matter will be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly.”
The federation said that De Vanna’s complaints had not been raised in any meetings with them but that “we have also been engaging with Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) to develop an additional process for independently investigating allegations of a historical nature as they relate to former players and staff.”
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