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New hydro pool casts light on change in attitude

The opening of the new $3.05million hydrotherapy pool at Malkara School, Slade Jacky enjoys his time in the pool, Garran.

The opening of the new $3.05million hydrotherapy pool at Malkara School, Slade Jacky enjoys his time in the pool, Garran. Photo: Colleen Petch

Its predecessor was opened in 1986 by Hazel Hawke after a group of determined parents raised the funds for a facility some thought was unnecessary.

More than a quarter of a century later, the Malkara School in Garran has a new $3 million hydrotherapy pool that has been funded by the government.

The pool was officially opened this week and will be used by children at the school for students with intellectual disabilities. It will also be available to agencies that work with adults with disabilities and people undergoing rehabilitation.

Malkara principal Jennie Lindsay said the installation of a pool had been considered radical when it was first suggested by parents in the early 1980s.

"Apparently they met great resistance,'' Ms Lindsay said.

''It was seen to be a bit fluffy and on the side, but they knew that it wasn't. They fund-raised themselves and built it themselves.''

The new pool is seven metres by 14 metres and heated to 34 degrees.

A pump turns over 2.1 million litres of water a day to maintain the high level of cleanliness that is needed to protect physically vulnerable children.

Ms Lindsay said hydrotherapy benefits children with intellectual disabilities who were also physically disabled.

"If you're low-tone it helps you build tone and get stronger,'' she said.

"If you're high-tone and clenched and your muscles spasm, like children who have cerebral palsy, then the warmth of the water relaxes the muscles and stops you from developing contracted muscles.

''It's also fantastic for children with autism who often love the sensory feel of water, who are attracted to water. They love the feel of the water.''

Education Minister Joy Burch said it was important for the original Malkara pool to be replaced.

"The original hydrotherapy pool paved the way for other hydrotherapy facilities to be constructed in other specialist schools across the ACT,'' Ms Burch said. ''This demonstrates the level of innovation and community spirit at Malkara School who have come together to put the needs of the students first.''

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