What would life be like for Yass, especially Yass mums and children, if our town had a heated swimming pool?

Last weekend, my 18 month old and I woke up to a chilly Yass winter morning, jumped in the car, and headed to Junee to find out.

A two hour drive down the Hume Highway, historic railway town Junee has a population of 6,295, compared to Yass Valley’s 16,142.

In spite of their smaller size, Junee boasts a few things we don’t— one of them being an indoor, heated swimming pool as part of their aquatic centre.

During summer, the Junee 50 metre swimming pool is outdoors and cold, but in cooler months a removable boom and winter curtain is used to split the pool in half, a bit like a dam.

The indoor section then transforms into a heated, 25 metre pool.

Alongside the main pool is a smaller ‘Program Pool’ which is heated to 31°C year round.

It includes a splash pad style paddle pool with a fountain for small children, which, via a wrap-around ramp, gradually deepens to a 0.9 meter deep, 12.5 metre long pool.

On site is a water slide which costs just a few dollars to use all day and is open in summer.

Upon arriving, we were lucky enough to find the program pool heated to 34°C, which felt like swimming in a huge bath.

My son had a great time throwing and picking up a sinking toy, practicing his kicking, and floating on his back, with no complaints about being in the water at all.

It was a great experience and made me truly appreciate the need for Yass to have an indoor heated swimming pool. Talking to mothers at local playgroups, it’s amazing how many are making the trip to Canberra, often more than weekly, for winter swimming lessons at ACT indoor pool facilities.

While Yass Pool runs excellent swimming lessons in summer, the facility remains closed for over half the year. Over the past two years, the consequences of mass lockdowns and mandates revealed how lifesaving swimming lessons are.

In 2021 the Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report found drowning deaths increased by 108% in children 0-4, and by 20% over all ages.

‘COVID has seen children missing out on swimming lessons, adults and teenagers with reduced pool access who are no longer swim fit and/or lack confidence in the water leading to increased drowning incidents in open waterways.’

The Royal Life Saving Society stated.

‘Yass needs a heated pool so that our community has the same opportunities that nearly every other community of our size has. I believe the youngest children who are learning to swim would benefit the most’ said Donna Wullaert, President of the Yass Swimming Club.

Donna has been advocating for a heated pool in Yass since 2017, when she sat on the Council’s Heated Pool Committee.

The committee organised a community survey and engaged an external contractor to do a feasibility study in the town. Since then, Donna has been working with council and offering assistance in writing grant applications for funding towards a heated pool. Recently an architect and construction company specialising in designing pools visited Yass Pool.

They spoke with council representatives regarding what is needed, and steps to help council get closer to making an indoor heated pool in Yass a reality. The architect and construction company have paired up over the past year to build ten indoor facilities like what is needed in Yass. ‘We’ve had a couple of meetings with council just trying to get their approval to let us apply for some grants but sadly we haven’t had any success there yet,’ explained Donna. Back in Junee, I spoke with Aquatic Centre staff member Caitlin about what programs their pool offers.

“We are running two programs for adults in the heated pool this winter, Body Blast and Aqua Bootcamp,” she advised. “Over the school holidays there are swimming lessons and they’re also in the heated pool.” While in the pool, I had a chat with Junee local Mandy, who was enjoying gentle exercise in the heated program pool.

“I come here almost every day, it’s so great that the pool is open in winter. Winter is actually the best time to come for a swim,” she said. It’s not just Yass children and mothers who need an indoor, heated pool in town. Yass has many adults, including seniors, who would greatly benefit, whether to improve their overall health, or heal an injury.

“There’s a large need for the older people in our community who need rehabilitation as well as hydrotherapy,” said Swimming Club President Donna Wullaert. ‘Then there’s many ages in the middle who would benefit, including kids who are doing competitive swimming and people who want to swim for leisure year round.” According to Donna, the community can help advocate for a heated pool in Yass by continuing to voice their concerns and wishes to prevent the issue falling off the agenda at Council.

“Keep voicing that our growing community is only getting bigger and is only going to need it more and more,’’

Donna encouraged.

“If an indoor heated pool is something the community wants, keep expressing that so that council hears it and continues to try and find a grant to pay for it, because it is only going to happen with a grant,” she said.

Southerly Jones