Mum refused entry at Bexley Pool because she had three children under-five years

Left high and dry: Bridget Murphy with her children Tamsin, four; Rhys, two; and Kieran, one; outside Bexley pool. Picture: John Veage
Left high and dry: Bridget Murphy with her children Tamsin, four; Rhys, two; and Kieran, one; outside Bexley pool. Picture: John Veage

Mother-of-three Bridget Murphy was refused entry to the Angelo Anestis Aquatic Centre at Bexley last week because of its policy of one adult for every child aged under six-years.

Mrs Murphy took her children, Tamsin, four; Rhys, two; and Kieran, one, for a swim at the Bexley pool last Thursday only to be turned away at the door on arrival.

"I got to the desk and they said, 'We can't let you in because you have got three kids'," she said.

"They said this is as per Royal Life Saving Australia's 'stay within arms' reach' policy.

"It's a good policy but it seems Bexley pool's management has interpreted it differently to other pools.

"The manager informed me that the policy means one adult is required for every child under-six years in the pool," Mrs Murphy said.

Popular venue: The Angelo Anestis Aquatic Centre at Bexley is enforcing the stay within arms' reach policy.

Popular venue: The Angelo Anestis Aquatic Centre at Bexley is enforcing the stay within arms' reach policy.

"This excludes me and my children from the centre unless I bring my husband and another adult to the pool with me," she said.

"It's pretty awkward to get three kids ready and to the pool and then have to explain to them that they can't go in.

"My kids have lost the chance to learn to swim in that pool."

Mrs Murphy was a former club captain of Bexley Swimming Club and worked at Bexley Pool for years as a swimming instructor.

She said she had no trouble bringing her young family to the Bexley pool last swimming season.

"We went all summer," she said.

"I fully support Royal Life Saving Australia's supervision advice of 'stay in arms' reach' for children under-five.

"But interpreting this advice to mean one adult per child excludes many families from important water familiarisation opportunities.

"We now go to Enfield pool which is a lot friendlier for kids. They interpret the 'stay with in arms' reach policy differently. I'm allowed to take three children into the pool with one adult."

"I can understand that other pools will interpret it differently because they have different facilities. Enfield has an old-style pool which is 0.4-metres to 0.8-metres which means little kids can stand up and they are easier to supervise."

Mrs Murphy said formal swimming instruction alone is not enough for developing strong swimmers.

"It is very important for kids to have unstructured play in the water which is unsupervised," she said.

"I taught kids to swim for years. They can't learn to swim in just a 30-minute lesson. Children need supervised play time in the water. They need to test their own abilities and learn how their body moves in the water."

Mrs Murphy said she learned to swim at Bexley Pool as a child.

"My kids, however, will learn their first strokes elsewhere until Angelo Anestis Aquatic Centre rethinks its policies," she said.

The Angelo Anestis Aquatic Centre (AAAC) is owned by Bayside Council and operated by BlueFit.

"We acknowledge that entry was refused of an adult with three small children last week, as per our policy as operators. Coming into summer, safety around water has to be a priority," BlueFit chief executive officer, Todd McHardy said.

"Aquatic centres are built in all shapes and sizes and each present their own safety risks that we as operators have to assess and manage," he said.

"Our company blanket policy is to employ the 'Within Arms Reach' program whereby all children under 6 wear a yellow wristband. If our lifeguards see a child with a wristband in the water without an adult within arms reach they will remove them from the water.

"Safety is paramount and this policy is then extended or amended where required at a facility level.

"The new aquatic centre at Bexley North is a wonderful community facility, however does not have shallow toddler water like many others. This deep water facility presents an ongoing supervision issue, and this risk was reduced upon the opening with a policy of one adult to one child under-six years of age per entry. Having six children myself, I appreciate this isn't always practical for local families, however the safety of all participants has to come first," he said.

"The second point of our terms of entry conditions (posted at the entry and the website) relates to the policy, however I acknowledge this could be better explained. This facility has been open for 2.5 years and the policy has been enforced as best as possible without an issue at all."

A Royal Life Saving NSW spokeswoman said its Guidelines for Safe Pool Operations (GSPO), is a Best Practice document for aquatic facilities and councils to follow.

"Although the GSPO is published by Royal Life Saving, it represents the collective opinion of the aquatics industry and a range of expert personnel across Australia through its development process," the spokeswoman said.

"The Guidelines have been primarily designed for application in municipal owned public facilities.

"However, the Guidelines relate to all facilities in which members of the public are encouraged to attend for recreational, fitness or educational purposes.

"The Guidelines are intended to be voluntary, acting as a guide to operators on the safe operation of swimming facilities."