Canberra Olympic Pool has caused a splash after it launched a month-long trial of gender-specific swimming sessions this October.
The trial started on 5 October, with the public swimming pool hosting female-only sessions every Saturday evening and male-only sessions every Sunday evening, after a call for more inclusive pool access for Canberrans from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds.
Canberra Olympic Pool said its trial, which is being run in conjunction with the ACT Government, was aimed at “maximising patronage” while also “minimising barriers” for all community groups wanting to use public swimming pools.
Canberra Muslim community leader Mainul Haque said the request for gender-specific sessions was made to make women feel comfortable.
“Ladies from my community are often reserved and shy so the privacy of women-only sessions will encourage them to attend,” Mr Haque shared. “Gender-specific sessions include all women: black, white, brown, Hindu, Muslim or Christian.
“Most of the women in my community do not engage in physical activity so if we provide them with a safe place, it will help them to be physically active. A healthy mother will provide a healthy family. A healthy family will help us to have a healthy community.
“Once a few of them get involved; hopefully, it will have a trickle-effect in the community so other members of the community who see their friends doing some exercise will also get involved.”
Mr Haque said the sessions, which also provide learn-to-swim classes, would teach members of his community water safety.
“Every summer, we hear that people are drowning at beaches and so on,” he said. “Normally these are people from a migrant background because they haven’t been taught how to swim. So the sessions will help them have basic water safety skills.”
Mr Haque said staff from Canberra Olympic Pool had told him that the first two female-only sessions had been strongly attended.
“We are not asking for any special treatment or anything,” he said. “These sessions are in the evening when most people are at home having dinner. I think most people like going for a swim without being gazed at.”
In a statement, Canberra Olympic Pool management said the trial would be evaluated at the end of the month with feedback from all patrons, and a decision would be made about whether the program should continue.
Canberra Olympic Pool
Female-only sessions: 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm on 19 & 26 October
Male-only sessions: 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm on 20 & 27 October.