by Louise Magee on September 04, 2020

The ARI continues its advocacy on behalf of the NSW Aquatics and Recreation Industry to the Federal and NSW Governments.

The ARI is an active participant in weekly meetings of National Industry Leaders and industry organisations, including:

  • Royal Life Saving Society Australia
  • Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association
  • Australian Leisure Facilities Association
  • Aquatics and Recreation Victoria
  • Aquatics and Recreation Institute 
  • Leisure Institute of Western Australia (LIWA)
  • Aligned Leisure
  • Belgravia Leisure
  • BlueFit; Club Links
  • LSV
  • MAV
  • State Sports Centres – NSW
  • YMCA (Aus & NSW)
  • Smart Connection Consultancy

 In recent weeks this group has been monitoring progress and issue in all state/territories and exploring further industry support measures including Government programs in training, skills and employment.

 ARI assisted Royal Life Saving to collate and analyse learn to swim enrollment patterns across Australia. As we all know children’s swimming and water safety skills are critical to drowning prevention, and lifelong love of water. Australia’s reputation in this area is world leading, as are our aquatic centres and swim schools.

COVID-19 pandemic has had significant impacts on this industry, and on the ability of Australian’s to pursue their love of swimming. Employment has fallen, and business viability is under extreme pressure.

The RLS study found that Swim school enrollments in August 2020 have fallen by as much as 30%, compared to August 2019. This decline in enrollments can in part be explained by closures breaking the participation chain, safety concerns and cost pressures. However, there are marked differences in falls from state to state, with some states showing very positive participation rates.

The operation of aquatic centres and swim schools across summer 2020-21 is vital to community health and well being, and to protect their long-term future. Aquatic facility and swim school businesses operate on very thin margins, meaning even a small change 

can have detrimental impacts, meaning without support some will not re-open this summer. RLS estimates that impact of falling enrollments is four-fold:

  • Children miss out of learning vital skills, which may have generational impacts on drowning risk
  • A fall in lessons, means further loss of jobs, which disadvantages young people and women
  • A fall in income, threatens the viability of small and medium business in the industry
  • This may prompt prolonged closures at a time where community needs their local pool most

One solution that is being investigated is the potential for incentive systems to encourage parents to re-enrol their children in lessons. NSW is well placed to expand such as system given the success of the NSW Active Kids Vouchers. An expansion of this program, with a dedicated stream for swimming and water safety lessons across summer would make a big difference, as would widespread support for vacation programs.

Industry is monitoring the situation in each state and territory and has committed to collect enrollment data again in September to monitor the situation as the weather warms up, and more pool open for the season.