Over the last 10 years, Aquatics Down Under has taught thousands of local kids to swim. Renowned for it’s quality teachers and award winning program, our own kids have flourished whilst attending this fabulous swim school. While their swimming program has always been top notch (they were recently named the AUSTSWIM NSW Recognised Swim School of the Year), let’s just say their swimming pool and facilities were in need of an upgrade. Their brand new pool and facilities in North Rocks Shopping Centre has recently opened. Behind this swim school is an inspirational local mum Mel. We spoke to her about the school’s history, her plans and what they have in store for the future.
Tell us about yourself
I’m a married mum of two awesome teenagers – Elly 19 and James 17. I’ve always been a water woman – I truly believe we are either land based or water based and I’m certainly the latter. My dad was a keen swimmer and loved the ocean so we spent many hours at the beach in summer growing up in the 70s and 80s. However my mum couldn’t swim so she enrolled my brother and me in lessons from a very early age because she knew that she couldn’t save us if dad was out the back and we were on our own in the surf.
This has really shaped my life – from my career, to completing my first ocean swim series in Samoa last year to even our choice of holiday destinations. I have no memory of not being able to swim but I can still vividly recall the day I learnt to dive properly! Being dumped for the first time in the surf, being caught in my first rip and the many many happy family ‘beach Sundays’ growing up – while others were at Sunday School, we were either at Harboard (or Freshwater as it was then called) or, on a bad surf day, at Clontarf.
How did Aquatics Down Under come to be?
11 years ago I was working for AUSTSWIM, the peak teaching body for learn to swim in Australia, in an education role training presenters to deliver courses and, in my spare time, running swimming lessons in our backyard pool in summer for 50 of the local kids. I was at an aquatic conference in New Zealand sitting next to a colleague I had known for many years and, after a few wines, I told him that ‘one day I’d own my own swim school. As fate would would have it his mum’s business in North Rocks Shopping Centre was for sale and he casually asked if I wanted to buy it! That was an interesting phone call back to Australia to my husband Neil when I said “I think I’ve just bought a swim school and it’s only 20 mins from home”. That was in 2008 and haven’t looked back!
What do you love about what you do?
I love many aspects of running a business but my favourite time of the week is Wednesday mornings when I get in the pool and teach. I can forget about staff rosters, paying my BAS, scheduling maintenance on the pool and just be in the moment with those precious kids and teach them a life skill. My time in the water also helps me to experiment with different skills that I can then incorporate into our teaching program.
The thing I love most is watching a child develop in confidence and ability and that moment when it all comes together for them and they are at one with the water. I love the fact that we truly make a difference in keeping families safer in and around the water – teaching them to love the water but to also respect the dangers that it can bring.
I’m proud of our growth – 10 years ago we had 270 kids and 6 teachers, now we have 950 kids and 22 teachers! I’m proud of our AUSTSWIM qualified staff and watching them develop from new, inexperienced teachers to confident, awesome role models and facilitators. They are so varied – high school students, uni students, those looking for a career in aquatics, mums of young children who can work the hours around their kids and empty nesters whose children have grown up and left home. Our staff are truly our back bone.
I’m proud when I watch my children Elly and James teach swimming. They have grown up at Aquatics Down Under and it was a given that one day they would be qualified teachers. But to watch them in action melts my heart.
I’m proud of our latest award. Last Month we were named AUSTSWIM NSW Recognised Swim School of the Year. We now go into the running to win the National Award. Being recognised by your peers is a great feeling! I’m also super proud of our brand new pool – it’s a state of the art, purpose built teaching facility. Combine that with awesome staff and an award winning program and the future looks busy!
What does the future hold for Aquatics Down Under?
While the drowning rates in Australia are still so high, particularly for the 0-5 year age group, the future of Aquatics Down Under is to continue to educate families on the importance of water safety and make them aware of the importance of active supervision of children in and around the water. With our new pool, we will have the opportunity to offer more families the chance to learn to swim and to respect the water.
If you’re interested in finding out more about their swimming program you can call them on (02) 9872 6860. The new pool is located at the bottom of the stairs at North Rocks Shopping Centre (stairs closest to Donut King).