THE common refrain about a country town is that everybody living there knows everyone else’s personal business.
But in Scone, the sexual abuse of two young swimmers by a celebrated coach and his conviction for indecent assault somehow went unnoticed for two decades, even by the town’s swimming club.
If anyone did know they didn’t let on, with it falling to new Scone Swimming Club president Joanne Wright to try to explain to a royal commission yesterday why the club continued awarding a breaststroke trophy named for the coach, Stephen Roser, until one of his victims contacted it this year and asked it to stop.
‘‘We haven’t been able to ascertain why it was not previously removed,’’ Ms Wright told the public hearing in Sydney.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is examining the response of Australia’s swimming community to allegations raised at a national, state and local level.
It heard earlier this week from a woman referred to as ‘‘AEB’’. Roser was her coach in the summer of 1985-1986 and abused her at the pool and its clubhouse.
He was with the club from about 1985 to 1987, and was sentenced to 200 hours of community service when convicted in 1994 of indecent assault and for committing acts of indecency against a child, relating to AEB and another complainant.
AEB told the commission on Monday it made her ‘‘nauseous’’ to learn the club still handed out the award in Roser’s name. Information about the second complainant has not been revealed.
Ms Wright told the commission yesterday the club could find no record of AEB’s past attempts to alert it about Roser’s convictions and was unaware of them until she successfully contacted it this year.
Club officials met immediately and removed Roser’s name from its club book.
‘‘You’re aware that there were actually two victims, both from Scone swimming club, both children, who swam at the same time, and both were victims of Mr Roser’s assaults,’’ AEB’s solicitor Lynne Hughes asked.
‘‘We were unaware that there was a second victim,’’ Ms Wright replied.
She did not know if other club members and swimmers from the 1980s were aware of the convictions either, but agreed it was important they were told.
The club, which today does not provide coaching, had no child protection policy in place before being contacted by the commission this year, despite being affiliated with Swimming NSW and, through it, Swimming Australia.
Ms Wright said AEB’s case ‘‘opened our eyes as to the vulnerability that exists’’.
She said the club had been left to run itself and it would help if training about child protection and how to handle complaints was offered by Swimming Australia. The hearing continues.