The Sydney coastline is dotted with iconic ocean pools, including the more formal Bronte Baths and the ring-of-rocks pool known as the Bronte Bogey Hole. Nearby Coogee hosts Giles Baths, a natural rock pool that locals refer to as the “nun’s pool,” while McIver’s Ladies Baths has offered women and children a private place to swim since the 1800s. You can visit several coastal pools in one day on a Bondi to Coogee Walk with a local guide, or explore them on your own.
While many Sydney residents cherish the memories of the city’s post-war public swimming pools – once considered symbols of modern Australia – the demolition of Canterbury Pool has left some wondering why the pools were closed in the first place. For lawyer Yusra Metwally, the loss of the pool she grew up swimming in as a child in south-west Sydney is personal. “The intoxicating smell of chlorine, hot chips and sunburnt skin are a part of my childhood,” she says. “It’s very sad to see them close.”
The loss of Canterbury Pool is just the latest in a long line of closures in the city, with age and declining patronage driving more than half of the Sydney’s public swimming pools to shut their doors. This is in stark contrast to the early 1990s, when a government grant helped establish the Greenacre Swim Centre, which became a meeting point for families and young people living in the suburb. Its closure in 2006 was a blow to local community groups, who had been fighting to keep it open for as long as possible.
Fortunately, a handful of pools remain open, including the Sydney Harbour National Park’s Greenway Swim Centre and the North Shore Aquatic Centre. The latter, a former public swimming pool that has been converted to an aquatic park, is free and open to the public every day.
But the future of these and other historic pools is uncertain as the government announces its plans to reform the national swimming pool scheme. The new policy is expected to include a focus on sustainability and water safety. This could mean reducing pool size, introducing more water-saving measures, and making it easier for swimmers to access pools in their local area.
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