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By Nicholas Hoynes
Why do swimming pools reserve a special place within communities across Australia? What makes these facilities so important to our communities? What has changed within our facilities over time? How has this focus shifted over the past decades? Where will these facilities take us into the future? These are all questions I have found myself contemplate and considering during the recent closures due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
I think back to The ABC’s two-part documentary ‘The Pool’, which aired in September 2019 and highlighted the special place that swimming pools have in Australian communities. It portrayed swimming pools as a defining part of our national identity, as well the importance of these facilities for more reasons than just swimming. At a time when our facilities were closed, I found this provoked contemplation and thought.
Maybe it has been the break from the day to day of facility management and operations, or maybe it was the strategic shift in thinking as we moved to restructure our operations prior to the directed closures, maybe the changing environment within our society allowed time to look at the industry through a new lens. Whatever the case may be, the opportunity was provided to take a step back and to observe the world around us with a different perspective.
During this unprecedented time, I saw different industry associations and organisations step up to provide support. Whether it was developing industry specific guidance, consolidating information from a range of government and industry sources into one location, or the use of technology to conduct workshops, deliver courses and live stream content. It was exciting to see what new and innovative content was being delivered and made accessible for the industry. At a time where there may not have been enough direct information and uncertainty was a key driver in decision making, the industry pulled together create something and provide further assistance. I hope we can continue to innovate and leverage technology to connect more widely with our industry.
It is great to see organisations such as ARI and Royal Lifesaving Society Australia, taking the opportunity to quantify the impacts on our industry and advocate on our behalf. This type of advocacy is going to be needed now and into the future, as I feel the effects are going to continue to be felt even after the situation may subside.
As we begin to see an easing of restrictions applied to swimming pools and gyms across NSW and other states, we will see the current and future impacts of this closure. We know that this is going to affect our operations and at multiple levels across our respective organisations. I am not sure if we will be able to return to ‘normal’ for some time, and in some cases we may not be able to at all. However, even if this is the case, an opportunity will exist to look at how we can further improve at a facility level, but also at an industry level.
Just as I started, I would like to leave you with the following; What lessons can we take from the recent events? What things worked well? What things did not? How do we capture this information? and What changes do we need to make for the future?
I hope these questions provoke further contemplation and consideration, and would like wish you all the best as we move forward as an industry.