AFL

AFL supports woman who has accused player of sexual misconduct

The victim of an alleged sexual assault by a Melbourne player is still being supported by the AFL, while her complaint is considered.

The AFL will be in a position to provide an update on the matter in the coming weeks.

AFL's integrity department handles sexual misconduct complaints. Photo: Ken Irwin

Fairfax Media understands that key figures involved in the AFL's response to the alleged incident have been on leave and will move on resolving the league's response once they return.

Victoria Police is not investigating the alleged incident because it occurred in Bali. The complainant has not reported the alleged incident to Indonesian police.

The AFL has refused to reveal the number of sexual misconduct complaints it has received so far. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

The sexual assault allegedly occurred in September while the Melbourne player was on holiday in Bali. When Melbourne Football Club became aware of the complaint, the club referred it to the AFL, which referred it to Victoria Police.

When the AFL receives a complaint, it refers the complainant to an "external expert support service" that includes counselling and other support. It is understood the complainant in this case is receiving that support.

The AFL – on this matter and other matters of sexual misconduct – does not answer questions or make comment to the media.

The league says this reduces the risk of exposing the identity of the complainant, whose anonymity may be compromised if the alleged perpetrator is made public. They believe that when these complaints – or any details of these complaints are made public – it could lead to other alleged victims not coming forward for fear of being identified.

AFL general manager inclusion and social policy, Tanya Hosch. Photo: Justin McManus

This is why the alleged Bali sexual assault was only made public through media reports on December 21, despite Victoria Police being notified of the complaint on October 2, 2017.

When the AFL set up their anonymous public complaint system as part of a revamped respect and responsibility policy in November 2017, it expected a spike in complaints. The AFL has refused to reveal the number of complaints it has received so far.

Professor Catharine Lumby helped create the NRL integrity commission's protocols to deal with misconduct to women. Photo: Joe Armao

When complaints are made they are handed to the AFL's integrity department. The integrity department is made up of 15 full-time staff plus 13 casuals and consultants. It is led by the AFL's head of integrity and security, Tony Keane, who is a former homicide squad detective. Mr Keane joined the AFL in 2014 as an investigator after 13 years with Victoria Police.

AFL updated respect and responsibility policy directs the integrity department to put complaints through a "triage" system that assesses the "seriousness of the incident, the nature of the incident and the available evidence".

The AFL's general manager of inclusion and social policy Tanya Hosch​ is not directly involved with this investigation, nor is she directly involved with other investigations. At the end of the year Ms Hosch presents a report to the AFL Commission about the investigations from the previous 12 months.

This includes looking at complaint trends, strengths and weaknesses of the system and ways to reduce the instances of sexual misconduct allegedly perpetrated by those at the AFL and clubs.

AFL's new system to deal with sexual misconduct complaints "is appropriate", according to one expert. Photo: Paul Rovere

AFL can investigate complaint, despite no police investigation

Experts on best practice in organisational responses to sexual misconduct told Fairfax Media that from the information available, the AFL's system to deal with sexual misconduct complaints was appropriate.

Professor Catharine Lumby​, who helped create the NRL integrity commission's protocols to deal with misconduct toward women, said there are ways for organisations to handle sexual misconduct complaints in the absence of police investigations.

"It should not be left in the hands of a club and it certainly should not be left in the hands of a player manager or a third party," Professor Lumby said.

"What's important is that there is an escalation, to a body, within any sporting organisation where the process is fair, transparent and just ... so that on the weight of all the evidence some decision is made and the person with the allegation ... is offered support and counselling at the very least."

Queensland University of Technology workplace harassment expert Professor Paula McDonald said organisations must take these complaints seriously, investigate them in a timely manner, employ experienced investigators, communicate with both parties openly on developments and ensure punishments are appropriate.

"Punishment is where a lot of organisations fall foul of good complaint or investigation processes," Professor McDonald said.

She added that best practice for an internal investigation on sexual misconduct allegations dictates that investigators should be satisfied "on the balance of probabilities" to find that the alleged incident did or did not occur.

That's different to a criminal hearing, in which the prosecution case has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.  

She also said that the AFL was not obliged, by best-practice standards, to investigate the matter because the player was on a personal holiday when the alleged incident happened.

The AFL's updated respect and responsibility policy was formulated by a committee including sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins and former Victoria Police chief commissioner Ken Lay.