13 October 2022

Greens' 'inclusive' swimming plan will have unintended consequences

| Ian Bushnell
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Andrew Braddock

ACT Greens MLA Andrew Braddock wants separate swimming facilities and times for people who are averse to public sessions. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The ACT Greens’ “inclusive” swimming push is anything but. In fact, they want taxpayers to shell out for exclusive use of a pool for select members of the community.

MLA Andrew Braddock may be well-intentioned. Helping more people to be water safe and enjoy physical health and fitness is an admirable goal.

But this type of proposal which on the surface appears harmless – in fact, all parties agreed to his motion in the Assembly – poses questions for us all about the direction of Australia as a free and open society.

Mr Braddock at least acknowledged that imposing exclusive swimming sessions on public pools was impractical. However, his motion still calls for future ACT Government swimming infrastructure to be designed in an “inclusive manner”, such as an enclosed smaller pool for those requiring privacy or sensory-friendly facilities and individual gender-neutral changing facilities.

READ MORE Greens float proposal for inclusive swimming times for women, gender-diverse people

The aim is to make it easier for sections of the community averse to public sessions to use a pool and learn to swim.

These include certain women from cultural communities and trans and gender-diverse people.

The government has already trialled gender-specific swim sessions and supported two short-term programs through the annual Sport and Recreation Grants to support migrant and refugee swim programs, so the idea is not new.

But Mr Braddock’s successful motion broadens the concept and entrenches it as government policy.

Mr Braddock says the government could contract some of the city’s smaller, private pools to hold specific sessions, at least, it is assumed, until public pools have facilities to cater for these groups.

The question is: should taxpayers have to pay for this, and should government be encouraging the establishment of separate facilities on cultural grounds for such a small minority as the hard-to-define trans and gender-diverse community?

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As a community, Australia celebrates the fact that it has discarded social rules that inhibited and held back women and, for the most part, embraced sexual equality and equal participation, reducing exclusive men’s clubs to anachronisms.

In recent times, Australia has accepted homosexuality, overwhelmingly supported same-sex marriage and is coming to an increasingly sophisticated view on gender.

Despite growing inequality, we still consider ourselves an egalitarian society, at least one with equal opportunity. There is no greater symbol of that than the almost stripped-bare environment of the beach and public pool where people of all backgrounds, shapes and sizes co-exist safely and without self-consciousness.

Mr Braddock’s proposal undermines this openness and panders to, say, sections of the Muslim community whose view on women and gender bear no relation to the modern democratic society that Australian women have spent decades working for and continue to work for.

If groups wish to hire facilities for private, exclusive use or businesses such as gyms want to set up single-gender premises, much like men’s clubs continue to exist, then, that is their business.

But public policy like Mr Braddock champions, which eventually would result in separate facilities, is regressive and would contribute to less openness.

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The different migrant streams that have come to this country have absorbed our way of life and enhanced our society at the same time, but government should not have to make allowances for and help perpetuate cultural beliefs and practices that are antithetical to that open and free society where men and women mix comfortably on equal terms.

The other question about this type of approach is just how many different segments of society do we expect government, or a pool, to cater for and at what cost?

At least Mr Braddock’s motion calls for the government to ensure that public pools clearly communicate that all are welcome, as they should be.

But all parties in the Assembly might wish to ponder the unintended consequences of other sections of the motion.

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How about the Greens (aka watermelons) put their hands in their personal pockets and provide the funds and build their own facility for the MINORITY . Taxpayers PAID for these facilities for EVERYONE, not for the exclusive use of a few!

How about alternatively, individuals or cultural groups pay for their own private facilities if they are unwilling to share public ones?

Yes…..’new cultural groups’ need to remember they HAVE to integrate into our society NOT US INTO THEIRS!

So we want to include everyone in sport but not in a public swimming pool. I’m all supportive of who ever you want, are or need to be but that’s a no from me.
Won’t segregation cause further marginalisation.

She felt uncomfortable swimming in a mixed pool. ”It’s not just about them looking at us, it’s about us being exposed to men wearing Speedos.”
Shock, horror – ban men wearing Speedos.
Then ban all men and just have wimin only pool time.
Also a male only pool, because it’s a known fact that women incite uncontrollable male lust.
Then have a Muslim only pool, which means we also have a Christian only pool, a Jewish only pool, a Buddhist only pool…
And a safety-zone pool for the growing queer, non-binary, gender-diverse LGBTQI+ community.
Some overweight women feel uncomfortable disrobing, so we have a fatties only pool.
Then a fatties-free pool for those offended by the sight of overhanging flab and obscene obesity. Beautiful people only. [Not sure if I’ll get past the bouncer.]
But not race based pools, because that would be apartheid and we’re an inclusive, tolerant multi-cultural society, aren’t we?

Well said, Ian! Totally indiscriminately mixed bathing is something of which we can be extremely proud. To hell with gender, sex, race, ethnicity, age, fitness, weight, hairdo, etc etc. Mixed bathing celebrates our common humanity, makes the unfamiliar familiar, encourages us to drop our over-weening self-regard., and has helped to make Australia great. We could even come to tolerate Andrew Braddock’s weird ideas – without ever agreeing with them, of course – if only he and we could swim together.

Potholes first. And, gendered, (esp, re-sexed) pools way last.

What is it about Canberrans and their preciousness that they get so worked up about the mundane! I grew up in this city but despair at the inane issues that consume most of its residents. I wonder whether these prejudices are just restricted to the Riot-Act comments’ sections. Go to any of the beaches in Sydney, the most renowned beaches in the world, and you will find designated zones for women and others which have been in existence for many years.

Having lived both sides of the bridge and frequented the beaches every summer for thirty years before moving to Canberra, that is simply not true.

Firstly the Greens are the ones who have raised this as an issue, I don’t think most residents would have cared but for the Greens proposal.

I am however interested in your apparent comparisons in Sydney. I’m aware there are historic assets and areas that were set aside for women’s exclusive use but they represent some of the historic segregation that we have progressively reduced as society has become more inclusive. I’m unaware of any that have been created more recently or any that are exclusively set aside for exclusive religious or transgender use. Have you got a link for these “others” you mention that are apparently so common?

I also hope you recognise the difference between potentially setting aside a small parcel of public land vs taxpayer funded assets worth tens of millions right?

You must live under a rock CJ!! I lived in the eastern suburbs of Sydney for a number of years. I was never a beach person but my female friends and flatmates always frequented the women’s beach in Coogee 40 years ago. They loved it. I think it is now McIvers. This wasn’t the only beach with dedicated zones for women and others. You might not like it but I have also noticed Muslim beach fashion has become quite the norm. I’m looking forward to Indigenous beach fashions coming on to the market. Some people have objected but I’m all for it. I know your sort but this is progress and thank God for that!!

Jack D,
So that’s one women’s only bath at Coogee. And some women wearing different fashion. LOL.

I also see you’ve conveniently ignored the opportunity to link this apparently extensive list of exclusive beaches for women, nor even been able to identify one restricted for “others”.

Almost like youve just made it up. That would be unlike you…….

Thanks Chewy you have confirmed my argument.! Chewy14 always focused on the mundane! LOL.

Weak attempt at deflection.

But no matter, I’ll take your repeated silence on the actual topic as an admission that your initial comment was completely false. Seems all too regular for you.

Poor old Chewy, always wanting to have the last say! My response Chewy14 highlights how diversity and respect is embraced. Women’s only baths and cultural fashions seems to have drawn your ire. I think Chewy you have a problem with diversity!

Poor old Jack D,
Makes up stories about exclusive public assets then when asked to provide evidence, deflects, deflects, deflects.

I’m a big fan of diversity Jack, although I do draw the line at liars and hypocrites. Sorry if your cognitive dissonance has left you queasy though.

Seems your memory is about as good as your story telling, but I’m sure your next ALP members meeting will perk you up.

I’m a pastafarian, and I demand equal rights.

Dear chronic complainers: pools have always had exclusive use times for things like lap swimming, swimming classes, school carnivals, parties, aquarobics, hydrotherapy, scuba instruction, etc.

Yes, and the things you mention either involve the groups paying for exclusive use of the pool or are open to all people regardless.

Thanks for providing examples not related to what is being proposed here.

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