Swim wait times sink


Elsie Lange

If you live in Sunbury and you put your two year old on a waitlist for swimming lessons at the local council-run aquatic centre, they’d be 114th in line.

If your child is between five and 18 years old, they’d be 133 on the list at the Sunbury Aquatic and Leisure Centre.

These wait list numbers were revealed in response to queries raised during public question time at a Hume council meeting on Monday, April 11.

Other figures were even more sobering: at the Craigieburn Splash Aqua Park and Leisure Centre, there were 1581 on the waitlist for three to five year old swimming lessons, and a whopping 4758-long list for kids aged five to 18.

Sunbury resident Mel O’Neill asked the questions and said she knew people in her mother’s group who had taken their child off the local waitlist to travel to Gisborne for lessons.

“Because they know that they’re not going to get their children in and they know how important it is for their children to learn how to swim, to be safe around water,” Ms O’Neill said.

“They just can’t wait that long.”

The figures are troubling in light of the recent Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report released in February, which indicated 294 people died from drowning between July 2020 to June 2021.

After hearing the waitlist figures, Hume councillor Trevor Dance raised the issue as a general business item and asked officers to report back about what can be done to fastrack a reduction in waitlist numbers for swimming lessons.

Ms O’Neill also worried about a lack of recreational areas for children to practice the skills they’ve learnt in lessons.

“Everybody knows that with education, you can teach and teach and teach, but it’s not until children practice and play that they actually start to reinforce those learnings, and there’s just no space to do that,” Ms O’Neill said.

Hume council corporate services director Daryl Whitfort said there were a number of factors that contribute to the variation in waitlist and enrolment figures at aquatic centres.

“The programs within each council facility vary with pool space availability and swim teacher availability – which is experiencing an industry-wide shortage since the beginning of the pandemic,” Mr Whitford said.

“The waitlist at Splash Aqua Park and Leisure Centre is the largest due to the high demand from young families that live in the area.

“The waitlist has also been in place since 2017, while the waitlists for Sunbury and Broadmeadows Aquatic and Leisure Centres were implemented during the pandemic,” he said.