A Perth gymnastics club has defended its decision not to advise parents and caregivers one of its coaches had been charged with child sex crimes in relation to two children he was coaching at the club.
- The offences allegedly occurred between February 2019 and December 2020
- Detectives laid charges in March but the club is yet to inform members
- The club says it followed all proper processes with authorities
Northern Districts Gymnastics Club (NDGC) coach Gabriel Sim, 35, first appeared in the Perth Magistrates Court in April charged with seven counts of indecently dealing with a child over 13 and under 16 years, and one count of indecently dealing with a child under 13 years.
Police allege the offences occurred between February 2019 and December 2020.
He is now also facing an additional charge of possessing child exploitation material.
The allegations were referred to WA Police earlier this year by Sport Integrity Australia (SIA), with detectives laying the initial charges on March 16.
But the club is yet to inform members, which has resulted in one mother pulling her daughter out of the club.
The woman — who does not want to be identified — is outraged by the club’s silence.
“I think that they could have just said … allegations and charges have been made against the coach, and we are working with the police and your child’s safety is at the forefront of our culture.
“And [they could have] given information about how to broach these subjects with children so that parents had an opportunity to talk about it to make sure nothing’s happened to their kid.”
Club says it responded swiftly
Northern Districts Gymnastics Club manager Brenton Treacher said once the club became aware of the allegations, it acted swiftly.
“[We] sought immediate advice from authorities, and removed the risk by standing this person down with full pay,” Mr Treacher said.
“The coach involved is no longer connected with the club, and as a club, we have followed all proper processes in accordance with authorities.”
Mr Treacher said “appropriate communication with involved members” had been offered, and remained open.
“Communicating details prematurely with the broader parent group may have created risks for the victims, and potentially jeopardised the police investigation,” he said.
“We are planning to address the NDGC community at an appropriate time, and cannot be taking actions that may compromise such an important investigation.
“Our members’ safety and welfare is, and will continue to be, at the core of our actions and operations.”
Sensitive time for the sport
The charges come at a particularly sensitive time for the sport of gymnastics, which has been facing a reckoning around the globe as more and more elite athletes speak up about the mistreatment they have received at the hands of their coaches.
Just last month the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) released its findings into the culture of Australian gymnastics, and the report was damning.
It found the sport “enabled a culture of physical, emotional and sexual abuse.”
And SIA this week commenced an investigation into allegations from dozens of former elite gymnasts who trained at the Western Australian Institute of Sport that they were subjected to physical and emotional abuse by coaches.
After news of Mr Sim’s charges was made public, Gymnastics WA executive director Emily Randall emailed local clubs to assure them the allegations were being taken seriously.
“Gymnastics Australia acted swiftly in revoking the technical membership from the alleged offender as soon as they were made aware of these allegations,” Ms Randall wrote.
“We have an unwavering commitment to provide a safe environment that respects the rights and supports the well-being of every participant in gymnastics, from grassroots through to the national and international levels.
“Gymnastics WA will continue to ensure an environment is maintained where children and all participants feel safe, respected, valued and empowered at all times.”
Mr Sim is due back in court next month.