Goodbyes and greetings at remote pools

13 February 2018
After eight years of incredible service at remote community pools, pool manager Jacqui Forbes is off to tackle her next challenge. If her work at Burringurrah and Yandeyarra Remote Community Pools is anything to go by, she’ll flourish in the role of Aquatics Officer at the Town of Port Hedland, where she’ll implement programs and services across the region.

The fact that Jacqui is saying goodbye after eight years is significant in that she didn’t initially think she’d even last a year at remote pools! In 2009, Jacqui began working at Burringurrah, before moving to Yandeyarra four years later.

“I’ve loved it,” she says. “I focus on trying to make a small difference to one person each day. I’ve learned to be very organised, especially in the wet season when you need to have weeks of food and chemical supplies on hand to be prepared for when the Yule River starts to flow and you can’t get out to Port Hedland.”
Jacqui with kids
Jacqui’s commitment to her role has seen scores of children learn vital Swim and Survive, lifesaving and first-aid skills who may otherwise have missed out.
In a role traditionally taken on by men, Jacqui has excelled, building strong relationships with the families and children in her community.

“What I love is seeing the kids come in when they’re really little and getting into the water, then over time seeing their skills improve. I also love just seeing them happy! It’s a safe place for the kids and a central part of the community.”

Royal Life Saving Society WA’s remote aboriginal swimming pools have been operating since 2000, with funding from the WA Department of Communities and BHP. They aim to address statistics that show Australia’s indigenous groups are at a far higher high-risk of drowning and non-fatal drowning. In fact, Aboriginal children drown at a rate two and a half times that of non-Aboriginal children.

“Jacqui has been an incredible servant for Royal Life Saving WA for eight years,” Greg Tate, General Manager Community Relations, says. “She’s been incredibly strong in implementing programs and with her level of community consultation has developed long-lasting relationships with the Burringurrah and Yandeyarra communities.

“She has significantly increased usage of the pool during her time in both of those communities, and the level of programs conducted out of those facilities has also increased.

“She will be a huge loss to Royal Life Saving’s remote aboriginal swimming pool program, but fortunately she’s not a loss to the industry as she’s going to be working as the Aquatics Officer at the Town of Port Hedland and we’ll continue to have an ongoing relationship with Jacqui in programs and services that we are implementing within that region.”

Taking over from Jacqui at Yandeyarra is Sandy McKenzie, who comes from a remote Aboriginal community called Santa Teresa, about an hour from Alice Springs. She arrived in Yandeyarra last week to be trained by LIWA Aquatics Executive Officer Tony Head and Jacqui Forbes.
“We look forward to seeing Sandy carrying on the great work that Jacqui has done in the Yandeyarra community over the past four years, while also developing her own relationships within that community and working closely with them to continue program development there,” Greg says. “From all accounts she has been extremely well received by the local community and we are getting very positive feedback!

“Sandy’s experience working in remote communities made her stand out as a great candidate for the role, and the fact that she understands what it’s like to work in a remote community and the importance of connecting with the community.”