A Dapto mum who was not allowed to swim at Port Kembla Olympic Pool because she was wearing too much clothing for the lifeguard's liking has lodged a complaint with Wollongong council, citing discrimination.
Body-conscious Katherine Pulo wore a rash vest and a stretchy, lightweight dress as she approached the pool with her two sons about 11.45am yesterday.
She told the Mercury she was stopped by a council lifeguard who told her: "I can only let Muslims in the pool in dresses."
Ms Pulo, 39, who has worn the dress previously without incident, asked "How do you know I'm not Muslim?" The guard replied: "You're not Muslim."
Ms Pulo's boys, Lucas and Mitchell, aged 8 and 5, called out to her to join them in the water, but Ms Pulo remained poolside in the early afternoon heat, telling the boys, "I can't."
Ms Pulo said the incident left her embarrassed and demoralised. She has been swimming at Port Kembla since she was four years old.
Years ago she would wear a two-piece bathing suit, but she switched to more modest swimwear after the birth of Lucas, and took to the dress after she had Mitchell.
"I'm overweight ... and self-conscious," Ms Pulo said.
"Instead of staying home and feeling that, I say to myself: get out there, cover yourself up and don't let it stop you having fun.
"I feel discriminated against. Just because I'm not bound by a religion shouldn't mean I can't dress modestly. It's my choice. Why should I miss out on going for a swim because I'm conscious about my body?"
A friend, Fiona Garcia, whose daughter Aprelle was swimming with Ms Pulo's children, said she approached the lifeguard over the incident, telling him "This is discrimination."
Told he would be the subject of a complaint, she said the guard replied: "Put in two [complaints]".
Wollongong City Council's manager of property and recreation, Peter Coyte, said swimmers at the city's public pools were required to wear "swimming attire" in the water.
"Council works within guidelines set out by NSW Health, and therefore doesn't permit the wearing of inappropriate clothing, or 'street' clothing, due to potential health risks," Mr Coyte said.
Signs were posted at all council-run pools, advising swimmers that appropriate swimming attire must be worn in the water, and lifeguards were required to enforce the rule, a council spokeswoman said.
Despite this, council apologised and would investigate Ms Pulo's complaint.