source : www.abc.net.au
A new partnership is helping to reopen swimming pools in some of the Northern Territory’s most popular communities, where children had to resort to swimming in crocodile-infested rivers.
Most important points:
- Children have been hot in hot, humid conditions with no communal pools
- Local councils are struggling to recruit enough lifeguards to protect children
- YMCA now works with municipalities to staff pools with volunteer lifeguards
Temperatures in the Roper River community of Ngukurr recently soared above 30 degrees and humidity soared above 80 percent, prompting Gene Daniels, local youth officer for the Yugul Mangi Aboriginal Corporation, to take action.
Mr Daniels said organizing makeshift slips and slides and organizing water balloon fights went some way to making up for the community’s only council-run swimming pool being closed for “almost a year”.
“It’s quite painful for the children because they can’t go swimming anywhere else because of the crocodiles,” he said.
For Gary Hogan and his friends, it was frustrating to have the pool closed, so the slip and slide was a big relief.
“It’s important for us because it’s so hot, we need to cool off a bit,” he said.
But Ngukurr resident Kerryanne Thompson said she was concerned local children were cooling off in the Roper River, on the edge of the community of 1,100 people, despite the many large crocodiles.
“Some kids, like my cousin’s kids, have gone to the river and it’s not safe for them,” she said.
“The pool should be open because it is a safe place for the children to swim, not near the river where the crocodiles are.”
Roper Gulf Regional Council Mayor Tony Jack said the council had been forced to close both the Ngukurr and Borroloola pools, mainly because it could not recruit enough lifeguards to ensure children could be kept safe.
“It was about maintenance issues and the most important thing for us was lifeguards. That’s the risk in running swimming pools for any municipality. You have to have certified lifeguards, which makes it safe, because you don’t want anyone, especially a child “Drowning,” he said.
“So this was the challenge for us, which meant waiting at the pools while we looked at other packages.”
Searching for lifeguards will help reopen facilities
Since the drowning of a child at the Kintore pool west of Alice Springs three years ago, safety and maintenance issues have closed five of the NT’s 18 remote pools.
The swimming pools in Yuendumu and Wadeye are closed, while the community water parks of Minyerri and Lajamanu are also closed.
Since the closures, Roper Gulf is one of many local authorities who have worked with the YMCA to work towards reopening their pools, with the help of qualified lifeguards.
“We have created a model where we hire and train local staff and then support local staff with volunteers,” YMCA NT CEO Matt Feutrill said.
He said while local councils in many remote parts of Australia are struggling to recruit enough lifeguards, members of the YMCA staff from across the organization are willing to donate their time to volunteer for a year in remote NT communities .
“The YMCA has a network of aquatic facilities across Australia, with 220 pools, and we recruit from that network,” he said.
“So they come and work with us for six months to a year, and housing and food are provided, but people give their own time, their own commitment, to give back to the community.”
He said it was particularly important to reopen remote Indigenous community pools.
“Aboriginal children are two and a half times more likely to drown than non-Aboriginal children, so developing water safety skills is very important,” he said.
“Another big advantage of operating pools in remote communities – where it is very hot – is that there is an incentive around the pool to increase school attendance.
“So it’s: ‘yes you went to school that day, yes you can come to the pool’.”
The hope that reopened pools will improve health outcomes
Mr Feutrill said there are other health benefits associated with chlorinated water, including controlling skin infections such as scabies, eye infections, trachoma and ear infections.
“All of these conditions early in life lead to chronic problems later in life, including kidney and heart failure, vision loss and hearing loss,” he said.
‘The pool in Kintore has not yet reopened, the community is still grieving, but I am in contact with the health clinic there and the number of cases for children has skyrocketed since the pool closed.
“So that community really needs to reopen that pool.”
The YMCA is working on a plan to reopen the Wadeye pool, and has now managed to reopen the Borroloola and Ngukurr pools.
Mr Jack said local children were excited about the reopening and students would be traveling again to use school pools in surrounding areas.
“All the communities in the area such as Minyerri, Hodson Downs and Urapungu schools will be able to use the Ngukurr pool, and with Borroloola the Robinson River school children will be able to use that too, so hopefully we will see really good health outcomes in the entire region,” he said.
source : www.abc.net.au