Ballarat changemakers

Almost 15 years ago, the Brown Hill Progress Association rallied to save the Brown Hill Pool from closure. Today, the dedicated community group continues to manage this outdoor City of Ballarat aquatic facility to ensure the community can get together to make a splash each summer.

Brown Hill Progress Association members  Rachel Zuidland, Liz Mason and Brendan Stevens.

The Brown Hill Pool is much more than a fun place to cool off on a hot day or evening.

Brown Hill Progress Association (BHPA) secretary Brendan Stevens says it also brings the community together through events such as an annual Australia Day party, Learn to Swim program and Toys at the Pool Day.

“Last year we had about 90 kids participate in our low-cost learn to swim program for children aged four years and older,” Brendan says.

“We also run Zumba water classes for adults and kids in the evenings in January and February. One night, we had 68 people in the pool, leaping around and doing Zumba with the music going. It was just fantastic.”

A recently retired X-ray and ultrasound technician, Brendan joined the BHPA when his neighbour asked him to help . t out the pool’s .rst aid room.

BHPA is the umbrella association under which is a committee of management for the Brown Hill Pool. The group also works closely with the Brown Hill Community Hall Committee, produces a local newsletter six times each year, runs an annual community festival and maintains an online presence through the Brown Hill Community Online Hub.

BHPA also assists the local kindergarten, primary school and Uniting Church and is a community voice for groups such as the Brown Hill Partnership and Local Area Plan Working Group.

Brendan says the pool means a lot to the local community, with many families spanning several generations having spent their summers there.

“The pool is over 50 years old and the council built the pool but the community built all of the other facilities here,” he says.
Located in Humffray Street North, the Brown Hill Pool features a 30 metre unheated outdoor pool, a toddlers’ pool, waterslide, barbecue and picnic facilities, a kiosk and a basketball half-court.

“Our customer demographic is mostly primary school kids and younger, their parents and their grandparents. It is very family orientated,” Brendan says.

Brown Hill is the only City of Ballarat-owned aquatic centre managed by the community.

“The pool has gone from strength to strength each year,” Brendan says. “Last year the City of Ballarat put a whole new pump system into the pool and it made our job a lot easier.”

There’s a lot of work that goes into running the centre, from cleaning the pool after winter and carrying out repairs to recruiting lifeguards and managing the centre’s day-to­day operations in summer.

Brendan says the committee manages the workload thanks to the many community groups and residents willing to lend a hand or provide sponsorship but they always need more.
“I’ve never lived in any other part of Ballarat where there’s been such a strong community feel,” he says.

“It is great to see families have birthday parties and family celebrations at the pool – it is like a great big shared backyard for the Brown Hill community over summer.

“People are really proud of the community area. The kids who live in the area know this is their asset and they look after it.

“There’s a strong sense that this pool is ours and we want to make sure it stays here.”