Western Sydney’s Cumberland Council has installed a privacy curtain at a small program swimming pool at its Ruth Everuss Aquatic Centre in Auburn, in part to help encourage more women to gain greater water safety skills.
The curtained sessions cater for a community need and are only held for a total of three hours per week, during which time four other pools in the centre are available. It is being used to provide privacy mainly for female swimmers but also for the disabled and other groups.
It was installed to encourage people, who would otherwise feel uncomfortable, to attend swimming lessons, and partake in hydrotherapy exercise and physiotherapy remediation, amongst other things.
Cumberland Council has a diverse community, and some of the ethnic groups who constitute the community have very low swimming skill levels, making encouraging swimming an important community health and safety initiative, as well as the other benefits provided by immersion and exercise in water.
Two-hour women-only swimming sessions are available on Sundays, and the screen is also used during two half-hour women-only swimming lessons on Wednesdays – with an average of 14 people of mixed backgrounds and ages attending the lessons, and about 100 people using the screened sessions overall.
Shock commentators riled
However, some conservative commentators saw the community initiative as “the thin edge of the wedge” in appeasing Muslim groups, with “shock” commentator Mark Latham suggesting on UK tabloid Daily Mail’s local site that the next step would be curtaining Bondi Beach. Some of the tabloid reports also wrongly labelled the sessions as “Muslim only”.
With the level of hyperbole rising SPLASH! contacted Cumberland Council to get some clarification.
Cumberland Council general manager Malcolm Ryan says that his council has a diverse community – not just in relation to race or religion, but also in terms of age and disability – and they have a responsibility to meet the needs of the community it serves.
“This particular program pool – accessible by ramp, heated, and with the option to draw curtains around it – aims to ensure all members the community are able to utilise the facility,” he says.
“The program pool is currently available for women’s swimming lessons, children’s swimming lessons and use by the elderly, people with a disability and patients having hydrotherapy/physiotherapy, who may prefer additional privacy during their use of the pool.”
He says that women of all ages and backgrounds are welcome to attend the women’s only swimming lessons.
“So far there has been a great mix of cultures attending. Women’s only swimming lessons are held on Wednesdays from 10:30am to 11:00am and 2:30pm to 3pm in the program pool. Women’s only swim passes for the program pool are available on Sundays. Female lifeguards are present during these women’s only sessions.
“Four other pools are available at the same facility during these times.”