Auburn Ruth Everuss Aquatic Centre is located in the bustling, multicultural suburb of Lidcombe in New South Wales, Australia. The demographic at Lidcombe is composed of people from all over the world, with a particularly large middle eastern community. Given the potential challenges that may be faced by the diverse community in Lidcombe, the team at AREAC are particularly passionate about Belgravia Leisure’s commitment to connecting all members of the community to leisure.
We spoke with Auburn Ruth Everuss Aquatic Centre Manager Pauline McCann and her team about why diversity and inclusion were so important at their facility and how they were able to create a welcoming environment at AREAC for all members.
“The predominance of our members are people of middle eastern background,” said Pauline. “This means our members are culturally and linguistically diverse, and have had no opportunity to be safe in or around water, and encounter substantial cultural challenges to access and benefit from services and programs that most others living in Australia take for granted. This includes learning to be water safe and learning to swim.”
The team at AREAC strive for excellence through diversification and breaking down cultural barriers. “We thought deeply about the needs of our community, as well as our own capabilities and limitations,” said Pauline. “We feel our innovative approach to breaking down cultural barriers has enabled us to engage, recruit and train members of our community. By diversifying our workforce we were able to make our facility much more attractive to the middle eastern community, overcoming language and culturally sensitive challenges. It’s important for us to ensure our team and facility reflects the community in which we operate, and employing refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria helps us reinforce that message.”
To date, the team at AREAC have been responsible for many successful community outreach initiatives including a partnership with Bankstown Senior College that led to the employment of 10 team members from middle eastern backgrounds; hosted a women-only swim teacher course that led to the employment of four swimming instructors who can now conduct women-only swimming lessons; hosted a CALD swim teacher course that provided teachers who could speak languages such as Persian, Arabic and Mandarin; and they also formed a partnership with RLSS NSW which saw some of the most vulnerable members of their community be introduced to surf lifesaving, with seven team members now actively patrolling local beaches as lifeguards in Western Sydney.
For any other facilities who are looking for ways to engage their local communities in the diversity and inclusion space, the team at AREAC recommend the hosting of community network forums within the facility. “These forums have allowed us the opportunity to collaborate with over 20 local stakeholders, community organisations and council representatives,” said Pauline. “This has allowed us the opportunity to truly understand the needs of our community and also showcase the dedication and commitment of the team through many of the programs and services we provide here at the centre.”