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Wellbeing support confirmed for Football Australia process

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Anyone impacted by the independent complaints handling process for Football Australia will have free access to expert mental health and wellbeing support, as part of an expanded partnership announced today by Football Australia, Sport Integrity Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS).  

Under the arrangement, anyone who has been involved in Football Australia’s national programs will have the opportunity to access free counselling via the AIS Mental Health Referral Network from 1 November 2021 to 1 April 2022.

This includes:

  • Current and former members of the men’s and women’s national teams
  • Current and former members of the A-League Men
  • Current and former members of the A-League Women
  • Current and former members of the A-League Youth
  • All impacted Football Australia staff
  • Impacted family members of the athlete or staff groups above.

Importantly, the support extends to all parties involved in the complaint process, including those who submit complaints or reports, and the respondents to those complaints.

The AIS Mental Health Referral Network comprises a national team of more than 50 expert psychologists and mental health clinicians who specialise in working with elite athletes. They offer free, independent and confidential support for elite athletes, coaches and sport staff around Australia, and understand the unique pressures and complexity of life in a high performance sport setting.

Sport Integrity Australia CEO David Sharpe said the value of the partnership could not be under-estimated.

“We understand that speaking up, or being the subject of an investigation, can sometimes be extremely challenging,” Mr Sharpe said. “Ensuring people have access to professional support if they need it is essential and this partnership provides that through dedicated professionals who are experts in the field of elite sport.”

The AIS Mental Health Referral Network was established in 2018 and is available at all times to more than 3000 people in Australian high-performance sport. AIS Director of People Development and Wellbeing Matti Clements said the AIS was pleased to be able to expand that support during the Football Australia process.

“We genuinely want everyone in Australian high-performance sport to be supported and feel like they can reach out for help if, and when, they need it,” Ms Clements said. “This year alone the AIS Mental Health Referral Network has received more than 350 referrals. So, don’t ever feel like you’re alone or there isn’t someone you can speak to.

“Your first point of call when you connect with the Mental Health Referral Network will be with a qualified psychologist who will discuss your concerns and circumstances, then offer to connect you to the most suitable clinician in our network. There’s no obligations, just support.”

Football Australia CEO James Johnson said the expansion of the partnership underlined the game’s commitment to providing a safe and supportive environment for players and officials.

“The issues we’re talking about are inherently complex and deeply personal, so it’s important that people are provided the appropriate care and support so they are, and feel, equipped to participate in the process in a way that caters for their specific needs and circumstances,” Mr Johnson said.

This partnership is complemented by Football Australia’s established wellbeing support framework which includes dedicated wellbeing and high performance specialists, Sport Integrity Australia’s existing support services that sport participants going through integrity processes can be referred to, and the wellbeing support services offered through Professional Footballers Australia (PFA).

The portal to submit complaints as part of the independent complaint handling process opened today. Complaints and reports can be submitted up to 31 January 2022.

More information about the network is available here: Mental Health Referral Network | Australian Institute of Sport (ais.gov.au)

Details about the independent complaint handling process is available here: Independent Complaints Handling Process (Football Australia) | Sport Integrity Australia

The original article can be found here.

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