At Monday’s meeting Council resolved to amend the child minimum age requirements, to allow unaccompanied teenagers entry to the pool for the current season. The motion also clarified the definition of who can supervise underage children. The term "parents" legally means parents, guardians and designated carers (e.g. relatives and friends) aged 16 years and over and confirmed that those carers who are not swimming themselves will continue to have free entry.".
A Councillor has many obligations, one of them is to support good governance through appropriate and effective risk management, a crucial part of which is mitigating risk through the implementation of ‘best practice’ - and the highest standards of that. As such I have no criticism of either Council staff or Lifeguarding Services Australia for trying to implement the very best industry practice for child safety at our pools, in line with the recommendations of Royal Life Saving Society of Australia (RLSSA).
However, ‘best practice’ sometimes treads on the toes of accessibility and user friendliness and the former pool entry changes are perhaps an example of that. At that point, following clearly expressed community concerns, what had been an operational matter became a policy matter and was referred to Council for consideration. My personal decision was made following consideration of many things, community views, my conversations with RLSSA, RLSSA’s ‘Keep Watch’ program, RLSSA’s Guidelines to Safe Pool Operations, RLSSA’s recent audit of our pool facilities, the advice of Council Staff, the advice of both Council’s insurers and lawyers, the advice of Lifeguarding Services Australia, various pieces of legislation (Discrimination Act, Civil Liabilities Act, Crimes Act, Local Government Act) and last, but not least, both the Report (including Case Study 15 which includes incidents of abuse at the Scone Memorial Pool) and Recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse.
I accept that many won’t be happy with the decision. However, we tried to find a balance in the conflict between community want and best practice, in relation not only to water safety but also to child safety, and tried to find a workable compromise and also a positive step towards best practice. I know that there is some residual angst that this decision is only for this season, however in my view, pending both a successful and trouble free season at the pools and no legislative changes from the State or Federal Governments, I see no reason why this would change.