John Wright child sex abuse allegations turn Australian swimming from Australia’s pride to Australia’s shame

Former Swimming Australia coach, John Wright, has been arrested and faces extradition to Queensland. He is accused of sexually abusing boys he coached in Queensland in the 1980s. According to the ABC, Mr Wright is also facing accusations of abusing children when he was a coach in Rockhampton in the 1970s and again at the Gold Coast in the late 1980s. If proven, these allegations are horrifying, and cast a dreadful shadow over an institution that should have been a source of national pride. This blog highlights not only the need for organisations to continue to support survivors to make disclosures about historical allegations, but to ensure that survivors understand their options to seek redress against those that harmed them and allowed that harm to occur.

What happened?

Mr Wright coached elite junior swimmers for decades. Former swimming champions have told the ABC that he sexually abused them as minors. Some of his alleged victims have, tragically, died by suicide. A number of survivors are now telling their stories – and they are harrowing. Shockingly, survivors detail poor reporting arrangements within Swimming Australia as late as 2010. This is a depressing reminder of the need – in 2021 – for institutions to have appropriate processes and procedures in place to deal with disclosures and escalate them to the authorities – and for survivors to clearly understand the other options available to them to obtain justice.

Child sex abuse is a scourge that has affected a range of institutions

When you hear Swimming Australia, you probably think of the Olympics, of Australians standing on podiums beaming as they receive their gold medal, of some of the most famous names in Australian sport. However, these allegations reflect that historical or institutional abuse is not limited to one institution or organisation. It is well-documented that child sex abuse has occurred in

  • religious and faith-based organisations
  • youth services and facilities
  • Commonwealth and state government services, including child protection and children in foster care, detention and remand centres, and girls’ and boys’ homes
  • schools, including public, private, religious run schools and early childhood education and care
  • sporting and recreational clubs and associations, and
  • organisations such as scouts, cadets and local councils.

Know your rights

Do you need advice about an institutional child sex abuse matter? Let Littles help. We provide expert advice in a sensitive and confidential environment. Get in touch on 1800 548 853.

Following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, survivors now have options they never had before. We are specialist abuse lawyers and can help you receive acknowledgement, meaningful apology and financial resolution from those institutions and systems of power that failed to protect you from harm.

Options for survivors include common law claims for compensation against the institution, a redress application under the National Redress Scheme and various other redress schemes for specific institutions. In some cases, even previous settlements of claims can be set aside and renegotiated.

Want to know more?

Your wellbeing

Your wellbeing is our priority. It is vital you seek medical or psychological assistance during your journey towards seeking justice as the legal process may be emotionally challenging. We can also connect you with helpful support services. If these media reports have raised issues for you, you can contact: 

1800 Respect national helpline: 1800 737 732 

Lifeline (24 hour crisis line): 131 114 

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636

Don’t delay – seek advice now

Speaking out against institutional abuse takes great courage and may seem an impossible task. Get in touch with Littles for a free claims assessment. We know that every survivor and their journey to finding justice is different. Littles will navigate this journey with you. This may include obtaining financial compensation from the responsible institution for the wrong done to you.

Free advice and no upfront fees

Not only do we offer a FREE claims assessment – we handle most abuse law claims on a no win, no fee basis. Our Head of Abuse Claims, Kate Ross, is an expert in institutional child sex abuse claims. If you think you might have a claim, get in touch with Kate and her team of specialists for high quality legal advice. They are approachable, sensitive and can provide you with absolute confidentiality.

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