Sunday, 2 February 2014

Pool Battles: Save Sunshine Pool

Photo from Save Sunshine pool

The Sunshine community in Melbourne lost their 50 m Olympic pool and had it replaced by a 25 m outdoor pool and indoor leisure pool.

The Save Sunshine Pool lobby maintains a website at

Sunshine is in an area with one of the highest youth populations, and least swimming facilities in Victoria.

The following transcript is from a 2006 ABC Radio program

Suburban pools running dry
Tuesday, 11 July 2006

Reporter: (Online) Florenz Ronn

Presenter: Jon Faine

The Sunshine pool has been out of use for a number of years.

Lovely lazy hours by the local swimming pool might become a thing of the past around some suburbs in Melbourne. It’s the middle of winter, but the heat is currently on at two suburban pools. There are even some splashes of colour and a sprinkling of activity surrounding the two latest pool controversies.

If you happen to be driving around Oakleigh, you’re likely to see a lot of blue plastic bags and ribbons tied to fences, letterboxes and shopfronts, as a sign of support for keeping their pool. A 24-hour picket is currently operating at the Sunshine pool in protest of its council’s decision to cancel the proposed redevelopment of their Swim and Leisure centre.

Over the years, some suburban pools have been allowed to deteriorate to the point, where it is now claimed that they are unhealthy and uneconomical to repair. But if no money is spent on infrastructure, then it becomes expensive to maintain, after which time it’s not economically viable.

The Monash Council has recently voted in favour of closing their ageing Oakleigh pool and re-developing the site. Oakleigh is part of the Monash Council and the Oakleigh residents claim that the Monash Council is too Waverley centric, which has lead to the colourful, if unusual, display. And across the other side of Melbourne, the Brimbank Council is to demolish the outdoor pools in Sunshine.

When 774’s Jon Faine suggested to the spokesperson for the pool action group in Sunshine, John Hedditch, that it was a matter of money, he agreed, adding that: "I think it is money, but it’s also to do with culture and attitude. This community has got sixty per cent of its people on low income and petrol prices are through the roof, people are working, they haven’t got the time. School kids can’t get on trains and buses and travel to all these out of area pools to have a swim after school. These pools aren’t deep enough for our teenagers or our schools. We haven’t had a school carnival here for fifteen years."

Melbourne has seen several battles over swimming pools over recent years. In North Melbourne, Fitzroy, Oakleigh, Footscray, and now in Sunshine, ratepayers are saying that they value the community pools far more than Councillors seem to realise. Pakenham have just saved their 50 metre outdoor pool. "You don’t have to be Einstein to work out the community wants the pool open, it’s our job to open it," one Packenham Councillor has been quoted as saying.

"If you don’t provide community infrastructure and give kids something to do, it’s not surprising that they get up to all sorts of mischief. There’s a link and our council (Brimbank) just doesn’t get it," concludes John Hedditch.
In Oakleigh, for example, pool supporters say that their pool is the only place where teenagers can go in the summer - apart from Chadstone Shopping Centre. The group protesting the Sunshine pool closure quotes the affect it has on local businesses. The outdoor pool was once a summer bonanza for local businesses.

"When we are continually being warned about obesity in our children, I find it hard to believe that access to the wonderful exercise of swimming is being limited by the closure of public pools," commented one of our listeners. Another perceives more political reasons, saying that: "I can't help but think that the changes made to local government by the Kennett government are now literally changing the makeup of many local communities."

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