Confidentiality – a real case in Melbourne why it is so important

By Dov Silberman

The Age this morning ran a report about a racist incident involving two under 15’s football clubs.

Reservoir Colts captain Mohammed AWO, of Somalian heritage,  claimed he was racially taunted and assaulted by his opponents team, Hurstbridge, players and officials.

It was reported that  Northern Football League (NFL) “chief executive Jeremy Bourke confirmed Hurstbridge made ‘some admissions’ of guilt at a mediation session in June 2011.”

That was 2 years ago!

If correct, then such comments by anyone, let alone a chief executive of a sporting association, cause concern for the integrity of any mediation process.

What is said at a mediation must remain confidential so that parties can freely talk and put their cards on the table in order that the real issues can be openly dealt with, without fear of compromising their legal rights or exposing themselves to ridicule should the mediation fail.

In many cases, and I suspect that this is the case here, one of the parties wants to hear a heartfelt apology and a strong and genuine commitment that steps will be taken to educate the young players about what is and what is not acceptable.  I also suspect that the other party (or the adults at least) are genuinely mortified by what has happened and do want to ensure that their team will be able to play without such a stigma hanging over them.

But mediations are not always successful.  I hope that Hurstbridge will be confident enough to participate in the planned mediation without fear that what they may say will not come back to haunt them, not only now, but in years to come.

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