Forget sun smart, it's sun stupid!
IT’S not a smart way to treat kids in the Smart State.
Hundreds of youngsters have swimming lessons each week in Gracemere Swimming Pool.
But since the shade sails were damaged by a storm last year, all those children have been exposed to the unforgiving glare of the sun during their lessons.
There have been lots of complaints from parents about sun-burn, but no action so far from the pool’s owner, Education Queensland.
Cr Sandra O’Brien, the Rockhampton regional councillor for Gracemere, is angry that the health of children is being placed at risk.
In fact she said she wouldn’t let any child of hers swim there until there was some protection.
And at Gracemere Swimming Pool there’s no shade from buildings or trees either.
“I don’t think you can let children swim in a pool without shade. Even with sunscreen, it’s just too dangerous,” she says.
“We all know the problems we have with skin cancer here in Central Queensland. There’s no more dangerous place in the world and the children must have cover. It’s a matter of real concern.”
And Member for Mirani Ted Malone, whose constituency includes part of Gracemere, accused the government of having blatant disregard for children’s health and safety.
“It wouldn’t be allowed if it was a worksite. It’s just not good enough. This government has totally lost the plot. It should be protecting children, not subjecting them to a higher risk of cancer.”
The pool is reserved exclusively for school use from 9am to 3pm – when the sun is at its fiercest and most dangerous as a skin cancer threat – on weekdays, but is open to the public during weekends, school holidays and from 6am to 9am and 3pm to 6pm on weekdays. Children from about 10 local schools have lessons there.
There are frames for shades over both the main pool and baby pool, but they don’t provide any respite from the damaging rays unless they are draped in fabric.
Yesterday Education Queensland banned The Morning Bulletin from entering the pool complex to take photographs and interview parents.
But Gracemere dad Andy Roebuck, who takes his seven-year-old son Jordyn swimming there every afternoon, was happy to talk outside.
“It makes sense to have a shade cloth in this heat,” he said. “You do feel the reflection off the water and it does burn you. I’m sure they could subsidise a shade cloth as safety precaution and we would stay longer if there was some shade.”
He said his son always wore sun screen and a rash shirt.
According to Rockhampton Regional Council the pool is owned by the State Government and is run by a committee that includes one council representative. But the council is not responsible for providing shade, it says.
“Structures at the pool are assets of the State Government and the shade structure was damaged beyond repair last season. The sails were removed on safety grounds because they were hanging in the water,” said a statement.
The council says there have been discussions about the issue, and there was a suggestion that various school committees should apply for a Sun Smart grant to get the sails replaced. But nothing has happened.
Alan Wagner, deputy director general of infrastructure services for the government, confirmed yesterday that Gracemere and Waraburra schools had applied to the Gaming Commission earlier this year for funds to have the shade sails replaced.
The application was rejected.
He said QBuild had now been given approval from the Department of Education and Training to replace both sails. QBuild is now calling tenders for the work – but there was no indication when it would be done.
Meanwhile, swimmers using the pool to cool off in the holidays will be exposed.SKIN CANCER FACTS
- Central Queensland has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world
- It kills 1700 Australians each year
- Experts advise to avoid exposure to the sun between 10am and 3pm
- People should stay in the shade whenever possible
- In 2004 there were 2340 new cases of melanoma diagnosed in Queensland
- One in two Queenslanders will develop skin cancer at some time