THE decision by Auburn Council in NSW to install ‘privacy’ curtains at a new public swimming pool in Auburn is a disgrace and completely at odds with Australian values.
Belgravia Leisure, which operates the Council run Auburn Ruth Everuss Aquatic Centre, has said that it decided to erect the curtain to ‘overcome cultural barriers and encourage Muslim women to use the pool.’
After decades of struggle to achieve gender-equality between men and women, the Auburn Council’s decision to divide the sexes in the pool with a giant curtain is an immensely backward move. It is a giant step in the wrong direction.
By installing the curtain in the aquatic centre, Auburn Council is basically introducing gender apartheid in NSW at the expense of unwitting rate payers.
The segregation of men and women in public spaces is totally unacceptable. One hundred years ago Governments in this country would require men and women to bathe at separate times or compel women to use bathing machines at the beach.
We should have now moved on.
It is the local rate payers of Auburn who have been effectively compelled to subsidise an initiative that segregates people and divides the community.
In 2011, Monash City Council in Victoria extricated $45,000 from local rate payers in order to build a screen at the Clayton public pool so that Muslim women could have female only swim sessions.
Multiculturalism is about integration not segregation. Segregation is not only offensive but it promotes unnecessary divisions among the community and can hold some citizens back.
Auburn Council’s actions are contrary to the very views that the Australian Government is seeking to promote and instil in our citizens, particularly through the Turnbull Government’s revamped citizenship test which poses questions about expected norms of behaviour between men and women in Australia.
A curtain does not just divide men and women in a public pool, it divides communities and it divides Australia. Men and women are equal and segregation is wrong. These are not controversial ideas. Public spaces should be free from discrimination and this includes public swimming pools paid for by local ratepayers.
As Australians, we want to encourage people to come to this country to enjoy the freedoms which have been hard fought and won. People come to Australia because they know that it’s a free country. This type of regressive scheme undermines the fabric of our society.