Court out

Liability fear hits primary netball competition

FEAR of legal liability is forcing some Bendigo primary schools to distance themselves from Saturday netball competitions played by their students.

Several schools have told players and parents they can no longer wear uniforms bearing their logo or call teams by the school name from this season.

It is understood the issue stems from an incident of inappropriate parent behaviour at a Golden City Netball Association junior match last year, which prompted a complaint to the principal of the school allegedly involved.

When the principal raised the matter with the education department, they were advised that if the netball team bore the school name or the school was involved in administration matters like collecting fees or issuing forms, it could be held legally liable for the team.

Big Hill Primary principal Peter Milich said to meet that liability, schools would need a staff member present at the courts for every match its students played.

"That is just not something we can provide," said Mr Milich.

He said his students had formed teams that would be called Big Hill, but not have the primary school name. They can still train at the school and use its equipment.

The issue was discussed at a Bendigo principals network meeting, where all but one of the schools there had direct involvement in their netball teams.

"We don't want to stop kids from playing netball - that's the last thing we want," Mr Milich said.

"But we can't take on responsibility for issues like duty of care, because we don't have a staff member able to be at every game across the season."

He said parents had been very understanding.

Quarry Hill Primary School, whose students take part in the Bendigo Strathdale Netball Association, detailed the legal concerns about Saturday netball in a newsletter last year and told children they could not wear their school shirts while playing.

White Hills Primary principal Damien Jenkyn said his students would continue to play at Golden City wearing the school colours, but it was not a school-council-endorsed activity so they would be doing so as individuals, not representatives of WHPS.  

The situation would be explained to parents at meetings in coming days.

"We live in a litigious society and unfortunately schools have to go down this path to make sure it's clear that the duty of care rests with the parents, not the school."

Golden City netball secretary Maree Dixon said the situation was frustrating and she hoped it would not affect too many teams and that no children would miss out playing netball because of it.

Ms Dixon said the association had removed the word "school" from its Primary Winter Netball Competition forms and would eventually review its bylaws, which require youngsters to play for the school they attend, to see if further changes were needed.

The schools mentioned in this article were not at the centre of the original behaviour complaint.

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