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Swimming pools in remote Aboriginal communities provide health and social benefits

Swimming pools in remote Aboriginal communities provide health and social benefits
November 8, 2016

A unique study conducted by the Royal Life Saving Society WA has found swimming pools in remote Aboriginal communities are positive enablers of community cohesion, improved health and well-being and higher school attendance.

The Remote Aboriginal Swimming Pool (RASP) program focuses on providing the remote communities of Burringurrah, Jigalong, Yandeyarra, Bidyadanga, Warmun and Fitzroy Crossing with recreational and educational swimming programs, to encourage safe aquatic participation. Funding is provided by the Western Australian Government and BHP Billiton, while the pools are run and managed by the Royal Life Saving Society.

In order to gather feedback on the effectiveness of the RASP program, and to encourage the communities to identify areas for improvement, Royal Life Saving Society researchers engaged with participants in three of the six communities over a six month period. Interviews were conducted with adults, while students took photos of things they liked and didn’t like about the pools; captions written to describe these photos were then analysed.

Participants identified a range of encouraging aspects of the RASP program including cultural appropriateness, community participation, positive effects on health, swimming ability and wellbeing and the promotion of good behaviour among youth. Evidence suggested the pool encouraged younger students to attend school through the implementation of the ‘No School No Pool’ policy.

The poor health of remote Aboriginal communities has been well documented. Children in these regions are more likely to suffer severe skin, ear, eye and respiratory infections as a result of inadequate hygiene, exposure to a dusty and dirty environment and insufficient health services.

Greg Tate, Royal Life Saving Society WA General Manager for Community Health, believes the results from this project provide further evidence of the health benefits of remote pools, explaining “while our findings are based purely on observations, community members consistently report that infections among children are reduced during the pool season.”

Tate says these results further justify enhanced government support of the project, adding “our findings are not limited to one facet of the community. There is evidence to suggest that the building and running of pools in these regions enhances multiple aspects of individual and community wellbeing.

Western Australian Parliamentarian Dr. Kim Hames “Aboriginal swimming pools are one of the single most successful interventions influencing health, social and education outcomes for these communities in our state.

“These pools are a community hub and the focal point for social interactions and recreation for those in very remote locations. The community ownership they facilitate and their benefits for wellbeing make them valuable investments.”

The final report will be officially launched by Dr Kim Hames at Royal Life Saving Society WA Headquarters, 10am on Thursday 6th October. This will be followed by a workshop to further discuss research results and implications for policy and practice.

Click here to download a copy of the research report.

For more information go to the Royal Life Saving WA website at www.lifesavingwa.com.au

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