A curtain has been installed at a Western Sydney pool to facilitate weekly"ladies only" swimming in the hope of encouraging more Muslim women to take a dip.
Auburn's Ruth Everuss Aquatic Centre will close off one of its three pools on Sunday afternoon between 3 and 5pm with a curtain so more modest women can swim freely, The Parramatta Advertiser reports.
The council-run pool's manager Richard McIntosh told the newspaper the curtain was being installed so Muslim women and girls in particular would feel more comfortable at the pool.
"There was a lot of research done prior to construction and we identified that they were user groups that we wanted to accommodate," he said.
Muslim women who wore hijabs or headscarfs would be welcome to swim in whatever they felt most comfortable in, rather than a burkini or modesty suit.
Auburn Council general manager said there was a high demand for such female-only facilities and classes to "cater for the differing modesty requirements" in the Western Sydney community.
Yusra Metwally, a lawyer and writer who last year founded group Swim Sisters group, said while she loves swimming she did not enjoy swimming in a burkini for a long time.
"I remember when I was younger I was told by a lifeguard that my clothes weren't appropriate for the pool — you feel like you are being policed and that you stand out," she said.
Metwally said the full-body swimsuits often exposed wearers to "questions, comments or stares".
Meanwhile at the McIver's Ladies Baths in Sydney's east, Muslim women often join other topless swimmers and sunbathers at the female-only pool.
The seaside sanctuary for women and children in Coogee has operated for more than 90 years.