Swimming into a water-safe summer at the Gippsland Regional Aquatic Centre

Published: 20 Dec 2021

Ebony Hayes teaching kids to swim safely - Photo Credit: YMCA Victoria

Please note: Images in this article were taken before current COVID-19 safety measures were in place.

Ebony Hay has always loved the water.

“I’ve been a water baby my whole life. Every time we go swimming, I’m always the last one out,” she says.

Earlier this year, Ebony decided to channel this passion into training as a swimming instructor. She received training through the YMCA at the Gippsland Regional Aquatic Centre (GRAC), Latrobe City’s premier recreation facility since opening in 2020. Ebony, who completed her Life Saving Victoria certification and now runs classes at GRAC, sees teaching swimming as an important community service.

“I just wanted to do my part for the community. Swimming is a life skill, and it’s awesome being around kids and helping them to get comfortable in the water,” she explains.

With an increase in drownings in recent years, the role played by swimming instructors is now more important than ever – particularly as people return to the water after an extended absence. Ebony and her colleagues at GRAC are keen to get people, and children in particular, back in the pool.

Kids learning to swim and play safely - Photo Credit: Latrobe City Council

“It’s really important that children learn or brush up on their skills before the summer, and that they get back into the pool before swimming at the beach,” she says.

Aerial view of the GRAC building's outdoor facilities - Photo Credit: Latrobe City Council

This much needed $57 million facility was delivered through a partnership with the Latrobe Valley Authority, Latrobe City Council and an $8 million dollar investment from Sport and Recreation Victoria’s Community Sports Infrastructure Loans Scheme. It provides many economic, health and wellbeing benefits to the region

With an eight-lane, 50-metre indoor pool, a 25-metre heated outdoor pool, indoor water play zone, two large water slides and a learn-to-swim pool, GRAC is an ideal location for people of all ages and abilities to reacquaint themselves with the water.

“We’ve got heaps of equipment at GRAC, and our classes teach people not just how to swim, but when and how to use lifejackets, how to do a rope rescue, how to tread water and how to float and survive using natural buoyancy,” Ebony explains.

GRAC is also planning to increase the number of swimming classes over the school holidays to ensure as many children as possible can get access to the facilities.

However, Ebony acknowledges that GRAC is currently facing a major hurdle.

A statewide shortage of swimming instructors is presenting a challenge as facilities around Victoria plan their summer programs. When it comes to GRAC, Ebony sees this situation as an opportunity for anyone considering taking on a new job.

“The staff and community at GRAC are lovely, and they made it so easy when I started training and working there,” she says.

“I’d definitely say now is a great time to join the team, for anyone who is interested.”

The Gippsland Regional Aquatic Centre is now open to the public from 6am to 9pm on weekdays, and 8am to 6pm on weekends.

Page last updated 21 Jun 2022
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