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Western Australian aquatic facility visits fail to keep pace with population growth

Western Australian aquatic facility visits fail to keep pace with population growth
March 7, 2016

Public swimming pools in Western Australia attracted 10.4 million visits and employed 3,500 people in full time, part time and casual positions in 2014/15.

However, while visitation grew by 280,000 compared to the previous year, it failed to match the proportional growth in Western Australia's population. In addition, less than half of centres (46%) offered specialised program targeting at risk groups including people with disabilities, Indigenous Australians and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) groups.

Revealed in the just published Bigger, Better, Safer: 2014/15 Western Australian Aquatics Industry Report, the aquatics industry in the west appears to be in a strong position recording annual expenditure of $72 million at aquatic centres in the state, 9% higher than the five year average of $65.4 million.

Prepared by the Royal Life Saving Society of Western Australia (RLSSWA), backed by the Western Australian Department of Sport and Recreation (DSRWA) and the Leisure Institute of WA Aquatic Inc (LIWA), the report is the only study of its type undertaken in Australia and underlies the strength of the industry in Western Australia.

The survey has been conducted six times since 2007 and nearly all of Western Australia’s 127 public swimming pools have participated at least once in this time.

This year’s response rate of 61% was the highest to date, with the response rate much higher among metropolitan pools (81%) than country pools.

Commenting on the findings, RLSSWA Chief Executive Peter Leaversuch explained “aquatic centres provide significant benefit in terms of community development, sport, recreation, health and fitness.”

The report highlights the important contribution of aquatic centres toward creating a water safe community, with 95% of all centres surveyed delivering swimming and water safety lessons.

The most common types of swimming and water safety lessons at aquatic centres are coordinated by the Department of Education with 82% and 81% of centres running Interm and VacSwim lessons respectively.

Nearly 70% of centres have their own swim school and just over half delivered infant swimming and water safety classes in 2014/15.

The 46% of centres reported offering at least one specialised program that targets at risk groups including people with disabilities was a marked rise from 2012/13 when only a third of aquatic centres reported providing swimming and water safety classes for one or more of these target groups.

Notably, participating centres also recognised the importance of including seniors in swimming programs, tailoring programs to these individuals as a result. These included gentle exercise and aerobic classes, exercise groups and health programs.

The number of aquatic centres who offer programs for Indigenous Australians was much smaller at only 18% averaging one session per week while the majority of opportunities provided were ‘swimming and water safety’ classes and women’s only swimming groups.

The long term marginal increase in expenditure per patron has been driven by three regional areas the Kimberley, Pilbara and Wheatbelt. Currently, estimated expenditure per patron in each of these areas is at least double the state average of $6.90. The remaining regions, including the metropolitan area, have all experienced decreases since 2010/11 with the Perth and Mandurah metropolitan areas having the lowest expenditure per patron visit.

The Report also uses data from Western Australia’s Water Corporation to estimate water consumption for public swimming pools – which comes in at around 1.3 billion litres of water for the year, an increase of 9% from the previous year

While the data provided by Water Corporation are indicative only and may include consumption of other facilities on the site serviced by the same water meter and do not include groundwater (bore) usage, the usage equates to 129 litres of water per patron visit to aquatic centres in 2013/14.

Similar to expenditure, estimated scheme water consumption per patron visit also varies greatly from region to region with all but two of the regional areas (the Albany and Bunbury regions) having water consumption rates greater than the state average, with some as much as four times higher.

While much of the overall increase in water usage was been attributed to two large centres undergoing refurbishments, there were still a total of 14 pools who recorded a more than 50% increase in water usage in the year.

Furthermore, even when these two centres with the largest absolute increases in water consumption are removed from the sample, there is still a 7% increase on 2013/14 figures.

The report also shows that aquatic centres continue to face challenges meeting staffing needs with not enough trained aquatic staff to fill the number of positions and aquatic centres continuing to report challenges in recruiting sufficient staff to deliver programs.

This is attributed to factors such as availability at peak times, mobility, career development and pathways.

Among a series of recommendations made in the Report is a suggestion that to maximise the size of the labour force and choices available to employers, a workforce development approach is recommended that takes advantage of VET in high schools, traineeships, volunteers, and employment programs. 

Click here to view the Bigger, Better, Safer: 2014/15 Western Australian Aquatics Industry Report available from the Royal Life Saving Society of Western Australia.

Images: Beatty Park Leisure Centre (top) and Bold Park Aquatic (below).

29th February 2016 - RECORD PARTICIPANTS IN WOMENS ONLY SWIM PROGRAM AT CANNINGTON LEISUREPLEX

28th January 2016 - LIFE SAVING LEADERS RECOGNISED BY AUSTRALIA DAY HONOURS

12th December 2015 - BOLD PARK AQUATIC REOPENS AFTER $12 MILLION REDEVELOPMENT

11th November 2015 - HUNDREDS MORE WA CHILDREN EXPECTED TO GAIN LIFESAVING BRONZE MEDALLION

14th January 2015 - 10 MILLION ANNUAL VISITS TO PUBLIC POOLS IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA

8th January 2015 - CHIEF EXECUTIVE CHANGE AT RLSSWA AS PETER LEAVERSUCH REPLACES ALEX MCKENZIE


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