The Territory’s pools might soon have “inclusive” swimming timetables for gender-specific and gender-diverse community members after a push from the ACT Greens.
Member for Yerrabi Andrew Braddock is behind the initiative.
He said some people in the community struggle to access a safe, culturally appropriate and inclusive swimming environment, including women from multicultural backgrounds and people from the LGBTQIA+ community.
Mr Braddock said given the ACT Government owns and contracts out management of many public swimming pools, these should be guided by a common policy that embeds inclusive schedules as a standard.
However, Mr Braddock said he didn’t envisage the inclusive timetables being implemented in larger complexes like Canberra Olympic Pool or Gungahlin Pool as he didn’t believe it would be practical.
“Those are large, open areas and it would be very difficult to achieve that privacy,” he said.
“For example, we may want to look at one of the smaller pools like Kingswim at Majura, where the government comes to an arrangement with the operators.”
Mr Braddock said consultation with the pools’ operators and groups on what times they could be open to women, trans and gender-diverse people would be important.
Previous trials of women and men-only sessions at Canberra Olympic Pool in 2019 had shown that evening-only times were not always the best.
He hit back at a suggestion pools should be open to everyone at all times, saying his proposal helped ensure swimming was accessible to all in the community.
Research shows people born overseas represent 47 per cent of the entire coastal drowning death toll.
President of the Multicultural Association of Canberra Nishi Puri said many migrant women of her generation (late-50s) are not comfortable enough to go swimming in a pool where men will be.
“My daughter is fine to swim in her swimmers in a pool with men around because she grew up here with other Australians, and some women my age are bold enough to go,” she said.
“But others won’t be comfortable, especially Muslim women for religious reasons.”
Ms Puri said swimming is a great exercise for people of all ages for building community and welcomed Mr Braddock’s motion.
It’s not just women from multicultural communities who Mr Braddock said are tipped to benefit.
Acting Executive Director of A Gender Agenda Jenni Shoring said providing swimming times for trans and gender-diverse people would increase the availability of swimming to more people in the community.
“[This cohort] normally has concerns about safety and gender dysphoria [and this would] enable them to enjoy an activity that has great benefits from an exercise and mental health perspective,” she said.
Mr Braddock’s motion passed the Assembly with tri-partisan support on Wednesday afternoon.
Canberra Liberals MLA James Milligan said the party supported initiatives that helped people access sport and exercise facilities.
“I believe the scheduling issues in this motion should be addressed,” he said.
Sports Minister Yvette Berry outlined a number of initiatives underway to increase access to pools and swimming lessons for the Territory’s multicultural community, older Canberrans and people with different sensory needs.
“The ACT Government believes all Canberrans should be provided with the opportunity to participate in active recreation and this includes aquatic recreation,” she said.
Implementing inclusive swim timetables was an election commitment from the ACT Greens.