This is becoming quite the controversary. Event rider Callum Buczak is charged with raping a fellow rider. Sad to hear this as was a follower of his on instagram and enjoyed his posts. Already some resignations over this.
Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick has called on Equestrian Australia’s chair to suspend the membership of an Olympic hopeful who has continued to compete in the elite sport after being charged with raping another rider.
In a letter written to Alastair McKinlay on Tuesday evening, Senator Patrick asked the board to reconsider its decision to reject Equestrian Australia CEO Lucy Warhurst’s request to suspend the membership of eventer Callum Buczak.
According to a letter from Victoria Police seen by The Australian, the 28-year-old was charged on August 2 for allegedly raping a woman in March this year. He strongly denies the claim.
“I am aware of a Board decision made on Tuesday 17 September 2019 to reject a recommendation of your CEO, Ms Lucy Warhurst, to suspend the membership of a male member of Equestrian Victoria charged with the rape of a female Member,” Senator Patrick wrote.
“I do not wish to prejudice the case before the Courts, however, I ask that you reconsider the board’s decision. I do so noting that the Victorian Police have met the Victorian Director of Public Prosecution’s burden for commencing prosecution in relation to a most serious charge.”
Senator Patrick said that while he respected the presumption of innocence, it was his view that “allowing the accused to continue participation in your organisation’s activities, under the circumstances, does not meet community expectations.”
It is understood the body’s decision to allow the man to continue to compete at Equestrian Australia events and not suspend his membership, while the matter proceeds before the courts, has created a split on the board.
Equestrian Australia was last week rocked by the resignation of director Gillian Canapini, who quit the day after the board meeting in which Buczak’s suspension was discussed.
Senator Patrick’s letter comes eight months after he used parliamentary privilege to question the body’s handling of separate sexual misconduct claims in a Senate estimates hearing on community affairs.
Senator Patrick questioned the sporting body’s governance, telling the February 20 hearing he had been made aware of a number of allegations regarding inappropriate sexual conduct by an Equestrian Australia official.
“I’m really raising it from a precautionary perspective and want to ask some questions about governance,” Senator Patrick said.
Sport Australia CEO Kate Palmer told Senate estimates she had been notified of the matter by a “bystander”, but didn’t have the authority to intervene in or conduct a review into this particular matter.
“We have been supporting and providing advice to Equestrian Australia about how they can manage the allegations, based on the balance of natural justice and procedural fairness and following some guidelines of the AMA around complaint handling,” she said at the time. Ms Palmer encouraged the individuals to contact Sport Australia’s sexual misconduct helpline, which is managed by the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre.
“We would encourage those individuals to use that very confidential helpline, because it is a very serious allegation and, obviously, of real concern to us,” she said.
The sporting body told The Australian on Tuesday the alleged rape did not take place at a rider event and insisted it took the safety of its members seriously.
“Everyone has the right to a fair trial and Equestrian Australia will make no comment which might prejudice that right,” Equestrian Australia said.
“Equally, Equestrian Australia takes its responsibility seriously to ensure that equestrian sport is safe for everybody.”
The allegations cap a tumultuous year for the national sporting body, whose high-performance team will receive $3.2m in taxpayer funding for the 2019-20 financial year.
In February, former Equestrian Australia chair Judy Fasher and two directors resigned three months after members of the board launched a coup to unseat them.
The sport in May fronted a coronial inquest into the deaths of junior riders Olivia Inglis and Caitlyn Fischer, who died within weeks of each other in 2016 when competing at separate events.
Nine issues are being investigated, including whether safety procedures at NSW equestrian events were adequate and whether the design of the courses contributed to the deaths.
Other points of inquiry include whether there were appropriate risk Âmanagement and emergency Âresponse plans in place and whether the Ârecommendations arising from Equestrian Australia’s report following the deaths was “appropriate”.