Ballarat Aquatic and Lifestyle Centre staff rise to COVID challenges

The Ballarat Aquatic and Lifestyle Centre (BALC) is hopeful it’s come through the worst of the COVID-related staff shortages.

While no aquatic facility was an exposure site, BALC, along with the outdoor pools across Ballarat, experienced a major shortage of staff, including customer experience and lifeguard staff, shortly after Christmas due to the impact of COVID-19 testing and isolation requirements.

Black Hill, Brown Hill and Buninyong outdoor pools were closed while remaining staff were redirected to our busiest pools – the Ballarat Aquatic and Lifestyle Centre and Eureka Pool – to ensure water safety for patrons.

This week, the centre continued to face staffing shortages, however BALC Manager Gerald Dixon said more staff are now starting to return to work, which has led to the reopening of the Buninyong Pool today and the Black Hill Pool will reopen next week.

“It’s exciting to reopen these pools to our community. We’re also working hard to ensure Brown Hill Pool is reopened in the coming weeks.”

Mr Dixon said staffing has been a major issue for the entire aquatic sector.

“All aquatic centres in Victoria have been hit with staff shortages because staff were getting tested or tested positive to COVID,” he said.

“Some facilities have been closing their doors and others have been closing their outdoor pools. At one point our lifeguard workforce had reduced by 35 per cent.”

Mr Dixon said he’s proud of how his team tackled the challenges of the past few weeks.

“It’s really been a fantastic collaboration and integration of staff across departments to find solutions to bridge the gaps,” he said.

“We had staff coming together to help out. People rose above and beyond in challenging circumstances and it’s been really great to see.”

Mr Dixon said it’s also been heartening to see an outpouring of support from the community.

“There was a lot of appreciation from the community. We were trying and doing our best to stay open.”

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