In remote communities, pools play a vital role in community wellbeing, especially for children. Pools are the focus of the YMCA’s Remote Pools Program, a locally led and culturally appropriate partnership supporting First Nation children and their families. With locally engaged staff, and the program’s ‘yes school yes pool’ rule, children meet, swim and play at the pool and learn the importance of good health. And it is making a real difference.
Project: Remote Pools Program
Location: Remote communities across the Northern Territory, Australia
The Remote Pools Program aims to improve health and wellbeing and reduce drownings for First Nations people. The Program supports local people and uses existing facilities to reduce chronic disease by encouraging healthier lifestyles, improving school attendance, increasing life expectancy and creating employment opportunities. For the YMCA, partnerships are the key to the program’s success and sustainability. It has enabled willing and ongoing local involvement, created diverse local employment opportunities, provided in-community water safety education, and culturally appropriate nutrition education.
In school terms 1 and 4, students from Lyentye Apurte, East Arrernte Country and Utju, Pitjantjatjara Lands meet at their local pool for the Nutrition Education Program. Delivered by local community people, children learn the importance of eating nutritious foods and the impact this has on their long-term health. All school age students swim or learn water safety building their skills and knowledge.
Implemented alongside a school attendance focus, the ‘yes school yes pool’ initiative has succeeded on both fronts. School attendance is up and the pool-based program is in high demand. Now, with two years of experience and success, the Remote Pools Program is expanding into new locations. Three new community partnerships have been established and a further two are currently in negotiation.
For Traditional Owner and YMCA maintenance coordinator, Justin Hayes, ‘the pool brings our community together’. Team leader and local Arrernte woman, Patricia Oliver, sees the program as vital as ‘without the pool the young ones would be getting into trouble throwing rocks and fighting because there is nothing else to do here’. For Kiana Hayes, a young Arrernte woman and now a fully qualified and trained local lifeguard through the program, she is proud to contribute to her community and ‘happy to work’.
The Phillips Foundation (TPF) supports the Remote Schools Program helping make real change possible. In 2021, TPF invested in a three-year program of $300,000 to directly support over 500 children, and another 700 family members. Further, the support provides a model for up to 3,000 children and 4,200 community members another 15 other remote communities.