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Increased RugbySmart investment looks to create positive social change

9 October 2020 by ACC
5 minute read

We're increasing our investment in the RugbySmart programme to $9.3 million over the next five years.


ACC and New Zealand Rugby (NZR) are building on the success of the RugbySmart injury prevention programme.

The new investment will strengthen the focus on creating positive social change in communities.

This focus recognises that sport is a powerful enabler of Hauora (physical, mental, social, and spiritual health) and wellbeing and that rugby clubs are an integral part of the New Zealand community.

Increasing our contribution

We're increasing our investment in the RugbySmart programme to $9.3 million over the next five years.

RugbySmart, which is recognised internationally as a world-leading rugby injury prevention programme, was first introduced in 2001 and over the past four years has prevented an estimated 25,000 claims and limited the number of serious injury claims to less than one per annum.

"This investment will enable a significant expansion of the RugbySmart programme," says Isaac Carlson, Head of Injury Prevention at ACC.

"While the primary focus will continue to be preventing injuries to rugby players at all levels, we will also be supporting NZ Rugby's desire to create positive social change in our communities by addressing off-field behaviour and using the power that rugby has to positively influence communities."

New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Mark Robinson says investment in rugby safety was more than injury prevention on the field, and looking after players off the field was also a priority.

"Rugby is at the heart of many New Zealand communities and plays a significant role in the lives of many of us. Through rugby, we believe we have an opportunity to help make positive social change, and our partnership with ACC helps us to do this.

"Our goal for RugbySmart is for everyone involved in our game to be safer, healthier, and more active. We're committed to achieving that outcome.

"ACC's investment will help provide the support and resources needed to make sure our rugby environments are safe, inclusive, and support the needs of their communities."

Improving child protection across Aotearoa

This work has already begun with NZ Rugby's Child Protection Programme, designed to prevent harm and ensure the right processes are in place to recognise and report signs of abuse.

Child protection policies and dedicated advisors are now helping create a safe environment in 90% of provincial unions.

Over the next five years the RugbySmart programme will focus on five key outcomes:

  1. More people playing rugby safely.
  2. The value and self-worth of tamariki and rangitahi is enhanced and supported through rugby.
  3. Girls and women feel engaged and valued on and off the field.
  4. Rugby is responsive to diverse needs, including Māori and Pasifika communities, and special interest groups.
  5. Rugby environments are safe, inclusive, and support the needs of their communities.

This complements NZ Rugby's new 'Harm Prevention Framework' which is looking to use the influence that rugby has to address and counteract harm and violence within communities.

Isaac says this partnership is a huge opportunity to further the positive impact that rugby can have in New Zealand.

"Rugby clubs are an integral part of our community and NZR play an influential role in connecting with players, coaches, referees, volunteers, whānau and the wider community to make a difference in the areas of social responsibility and improving culture," he says.

RugbySmart is one of several targeted programmes by ACC to prevent sports-related injuries.

RugbySmart key facts: Why the programme is successful

Injury Prevention

  • RugbySmart, which was introduced in 2001, is one of ACC's most successful Injury Prevention programmes.
  • Sports injuries contribute approximately 21% of all ACC injury claims, of which rugby is a contributor.
  • During the current four-year investment period RugbySmart has prevented 25,000 claims and limited the volume of serious injury claims to less than one per annum.
  • Since RugbySmart was introduced in 2001 the number of serious spinal injuries sustained by rugby players annually has reduced from an average of 3.2 injured per annum to less than 1 per annum.
  • Māori make up only 16.5% of New Zealand total population, but account for 28% of the registered rugby player base, which is why rugby aims to be more responsive to diverse needs, including Māori and Pasifika communities.
  • Soft tissue injuries (sprains, strains, and bruises) make up 76% of all claims, concussions 3% of all claims.

Social issues: Why RugbySmart is looking to make a positive social change

Family Violence

  • In 2017 New Zealand had 121,747 family harm investigations by the NZ Police in 2017, which equates to one every four minutes. 80% of family violence is not reported to the police in NZ. (A 2018 report by Dr Ian Lambie, Chief Science Advisor to the Justice Sector entitled 'Every 4 minutes'.)
  • About half of all homicides in New Zealand are committed by an offender who is identified as family.
  • On average 13 women, 10 men, and 9 children were killed each year as a result of family violence.
  • 76% of intimate partner violence-related deaths were perpetrated by men, 24% were perpetrated by women.
  • It's estimated 1 in 3 women will experience physical partner violence at some point in their lives.
  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 8 men report they have been a victim of an offence by their partner (includes behaviours from serious assault to petty threats). 85% of the serious partner offences were against female victims (2009 NZ Crime and Safety Survey).
  • Family violence is estimated to cost between $4.1 and $7 billion each year.

(Sources: 'It's Not OK' campaign and NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse, Police data, Crime and Safety Survey)

Child Abuse

  • In 2013 New Zealand had the second-highest rate of child homicide in the OECD behind Canada.
  • A report in 2016 by the Human Rights Commission put New Zealand as having the fifth-worst child abuse record of the 31 OECD countries.
  • New Zealand kids are 50% more likely to die from abuse or neglect as Australian kids. (Unicef Innocenti Research Centre: An overview of child well-being in rich countries).
  • A child is killed in New Zealand every five weeks (Child Matters).

Why rugby

  • Community campaigns can make a big difference: One study showed 1 in 3 people had taken direct action as a result of a family harm campaign in their community.
  • Research on Family Violence in New Zealand showed in all but 6% of cases people go to their community first for help with violence and abuse. 60% of people will never engage with any formal service.
  • People went to community first because they felt like people who knew them would be more help.
  • Research shows victims of violence only access police and agencies when they have made multiple attempts to get help from their communities.
  • NZR have made visible the connection to local services so anyone who needs help can find it.
  • Men's role modelling to other men has been shown to be a powerful influence on behaviour. Having good men promoting respect for partners and families, talking about Family Harm is an important part of prevention.

(Source: 'It's not OK' campaign)

What NZ Rugby has done since 2017

  • In 2017 NZR adopted a Child Protection Policy which sets out how NZR define, prevent, and respond to child protection issues in our communities. All Unions were asked to adopt and implement this policy.
  • Alongside external Child Protection experts NZR has created resources and training for Provincial Union staff, club administrators and coaches.
  • NZR has delivered 36 training sessions in more than 16 regions around the country reaching around 480 people from unions or clubs, including representatives from all 26 unions, and approximately 190 clubs or high schools.
  • 14 unions opted to have all their clubs trained by NZR in Child Protection.
  • 9 unions have trained their entire community staff in Child Protection.
  • 100% of Rugby Development Officers have been trained to deliver Child Protection messaging.

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