Canberra Olympic Pool has begun a trial of women's and men's only sessions in response to demand from migrant communities.
During October, there will be a female-only session between 5.30pm to 7pm every Saturday and a male only session between 5.30pm to 7pm every Sunday.
Canberra Muslim Community president Mainul Haque welcomed the trial, saying women in migrant communities were often reserved and the privacy of women-only sessions would encourage more to attend the pool.
"The main challenge is keeping our communities healthy and getting them involved in physical activities," he said.
"How do you do that? Give them the confidence they need.
"Hopefully it will be a trickle down effect - seeing their friends doing exercise will help get more people involved."
Mr Haque said more members of migrant communities needed to learn to swim.
"Most of the drownings in summer time at beaches are migrant people," he said.
Mr Haque said he hoped the trial would become permanent.
But some have criticised the scheme, saying they had no idea it was happening, or why, until they were turned away at the door.
"This information is hidden away at the bottom of their website and we were clearly not the only people who had missed it, as many others were also being turned away that evening," a Canberra mother said in a letter to the editor.
"My daughter, in tears, couldn't understand why it was 'boys only'. Like many Canberra parents, my husband and I are trying to raise our child to believe that her gender is not a barrier to anything and to not be self-conscious about her body.
"How can we do this when public institutions blatantly turn her away because she is a girl?"
An ACT government spokeswoman said the one month trial was introduced to provide more inclusive pool access for Canberrans.
"The ACT government is respectful of those from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds, and this is an opportunity to provide pool access to those who may not have been able to access it previously," she said.
"It is important that all Canberrans have access to aquatic venues so that they can develop the necessary confidence and skills to be safe in and around aquatic environments.
"The trial was advertised around the facility, via social media and on the pool's website. Feedback from patrons will be collected throughout the trial."