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Preserving the Heart of the Community: The Vital Importance of Saving the Emerald Lake Pool.

by Vanessa Kewish

Australia's love affair with water-based activities and public swimming pools dates back to the late 19th century when the first public baths were constructed in Melbourne and Sydney. Over the years, swimming has become an integral part of Australian culture, and public swimming pools have played a significant role in promoting health, fitness, safety, and social cohesion.

The Emerald Lake Park Pool, a cherished part of the community since the 1930s, epitomizes this enduring love for swimming. However, it now stands at a crossroads, facing potential decommissioning. This predicament is not unique but mirrors a broader challenge across the nation's aging aquatic infrastructure, as highlighted by a recent report by the Royal Life Saving Society – Australia (RLSSA).

The RLSSA report which you can find here, based on comprehensive research, reveals alarming findings. Up to 40 percent of public aquatic facilities owned by local governments will require replacement within the next decade, with an estimated cost exceeding $8 billion. These facilities are essential for learn-to-swim programs, water therapy, leisure, physical activity, and swimming, impacting the lives of over 5 million Australians. In addition to these benefits, they foster social cohesion, bringing communities together.

Regional and remote communities, where 58 percent of Australian public pools are located, face the greatest risk of pool closures. These pools are a lifeline, providing access to swimming and water safety programs that are crucial in areas prone to inland waterway incidents.

While additional funding from state and federal governments is a potential solution, the RLSSA report suggests exploring innovative approaches, such as Public-Private-Partnerships, sharing facilities with schools, enhancing collaboration between councils, and involving sports clubs in facility development. These approaches can help ensure the continued availability of public swimming pools without overburdening local governments.

The story of the Emerald Lake Park Pool is emblematic of the broader issue facing aquatic infrastructure in Australia. It underscores the critical role these facilities play, not only as places for recreation but as vital community assets that promote health, safety, and social well-being.

Moreover, the history of public swimming pools in Australia is a testament to their significance. Pools were initially built to combat the spread of infectious diseases and provide safe swimming environments. They played a pivotal role in teaching essential swimming and water safety skills, contributing to a dramatic reduction in drowning rates among children.

Over the years, pools have evolved to offer diverse programs, including aqua aerobics, hydrotherapy, and water-related exercises, addressing Australia's growing health concerns related to physical inactivity. They have also become hubs for social interaction, reducing social isolation for at-risk community members.

The economic impact of public swimming pools is substantial, employing thousands of Australians and contributing billions of dollars annually to health, social, and economic benefits. They have also become vital spaces for mental well-being, reducing stress and promoting mental health.

The Emerald Lake Park Pool embodies this rich history and the multifaceted benefits of public swimming pools. Its potential decommissioning represents not just the loss of a beloved local landmark but also the erosion of essential health, social, and economic benefits.

As Australians, we must recognize the profound importance of preserving our aquatic heritage and securing a brighter future for all. The fate of the Emerald Lake Park Pool should serve as a clarion call to action, urging us to safeguard these vital spaces across the nation. It's not just about saving a pool; it's about preserving the heart of our communities and ensuring that generations to come can enjoy the benefits of swimming for fun, fitness, and education. The time to act is now, for the well-being of our communities and the future of Australia's aquatic infrastructure.

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