Swimming Australia has warded off possible expulsion from World Aquatics with urgent constitutional reforms ©Getty Images

Swimming Australia has averted expulsion from or a possible takeover by World Aquatics by voting to accept constitutional reform introducing modern governance standards at a Special General Meeting.

The national body's voting members polled 8-1 in favour of adopting a new constitution which meets the requirements of World Aquatics and the Australian Sports Commission (ASC), and had the support of its Board.

In contrast to the international success of Australian swimmers, who dominated the recent World Championships in Japan, the state associations have been involved in constant infighting with Swimming Australia leadership.

With World Aquatics threatening to step in and forcibly effect governance change at Swimming Australia, a Special General Meeting was held for state-based members, and coaches and athletes' associations to vote on proposed changes to the constitution.

"The changes to Swimming Australia's constitution provides athletes with an unprecedented voice at the Board table to ensure current and future swimmers can enjoy swimming in a safe and supported environment," ASC chair Josephine Sukkar said.

In a statement, Swimming Australia said: "Swimming Australia’s new constitution introduces a range of reforms aimed at delivering a more stable overall environment for the sport and better outcomes from the grassroots and community level through to high-performance."

It will also create an Athletes' Commission which will nominate candidates to the Swimming Australia Board as athlete director.

The number of members entitled to vote will be increased while a formal role of vice-president will be introduced.

The proportion of votes that a director needs to be appointed President will also be increased.

Swimming Australia has adopted more modern governance methods demanded by World Athletics by voting for constitutional reforms ©Getty Images
Swimming Australia has adopted more modern governance methods demanded by World Athletics by voting for constitutional reforms ©Getty Images

The development is the latest in a long saga of governance and leadership challenges the sport has faced in recent years.

Amid a high turnover of Board members, Swimming Australia has had four different chief executives since 2017. 

Eugenie Buckley stepped down after just 18 months earlier this year, and Steve Newman is now in the position in an interim role.

The besieged organisation has also been forced to address a toxic culture within the sport after an independent review had shown up instances of abusive behaviour and physical and mental abuse.

It also lost a major source of funding in September 2021 when Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting Swimmers Support Scheme, which had made a significant financial contribution to the sport over many years, was ended.

Rinehart was reportedly unhappy over a number of late payments made to athletes, and subsequently requested access to accounting records, which she was denied. 

A request for a seat on the Swimming Australia Board for her company Hancock Prospecting was also rejected amid concerns over her influence as a sponsor.

Josephine Sukkar, the Australian Sports Commission chair, said the ASC would continue to work with swimmers and coaches ahead of the Paris 2024 Games and ensure preparations were not affected.

"Change of this nature is never easy and was done with the future generation of Australian swimmers in mind," Sukkar said.