The YMCA NSW (the Y NSW) is calling on the NSW Government to support the community sport, aquatics and recreation sector survive.
The Y NSW has advised NSW Treasury of the adverse economic impact of the extended lockdown to the sector and the devastating long-term cost to public health. The not-for-profit organisation, which manages 22 leisure centres and pools across NSW, said the sector has slipped through the cracks of the NSW Government’s most recent $5.1 billion industry support package and is frustrated to continually be forgotten.
Y NSW CEO Susannah Le Bron is warning that without support, industry staffing shortages would continue to balloon, the community would continue to disengage from physical fitness and wellness programs, and learn-to-swim programs would suffer – putting young Australians at higher risk of drowning in the Summer.
“Our organisation, and many like us, exist to better the health and wellness of NSW citizens and as a sector we are yet to receive any direct support like many other industries. Any general Government support on offer that we actually meet the criteria for would sadly be woefully inadequate to meaningfully mitigate the financial distress we are in. Our income streams in the sport, aquatics and recreation space have been frozen by lockdown and we are seeing staff abandon the sector due to its uncertainty, customers are cancelling gym memberships and failing to enrol their children in swimming lessons,” Ms Le Bron said. “We’re very supportive of all measures being taken to protect the community from COVID-19 – we just want to ensure we’re in good shape, let alone exist to continue to service the community when we reopen in the future.
More than 50 per cent of the Y NSW’s recreation workforce is currently stood down and 15,630 memberships are suspended. The ongoing exodus of staff from these lifesaving positions exacerbates an existing shortage of qualified swim instructors and lifeguards across NSW. In March this year, Swim Australia estimated the NSW workforce was 600 jobs below capacity, with the Y NSW alone currently recruiting for over 140 vacancies and growing.
“Without support, community sport, gyms and pools are at risk of not being able to open once this lockdown ends. With drowning deaths up 30 per cent over the 2020/21 season it’s clear the impacts of lockdown and reduced access to swimming lessons is literally taking its toll. Swimming lessons save lives and should be considered an essential service in our water loving nation. Our industry has done our bit to support the Government’s efforts to fight COVID every step of the way. We are critical to motivating and enabling Australians to stay fit and connected – an incredibly powerful tool in battling the mental health challenges this pandemic presents. However, we need to be fit ourselves to play the vital role we need to in recovery. The Government must extend the support other sectors have enjoyed to our struggling sector. This is a sector critical to a healthy Australian way of life.”
Y NSW representatives met with Treasury and representatives from the Office of Sport last week and have requested the NSW Government consider practical options including:
- A stimulus package to restart the community recreation, aquatic and leisure sector.
- A grant-based fund to support industry operators to re-open and/or increase attendance in instances where attendance has fallen by 30-100 per cent.
- Expansion of existing Active Kids and Dine and Discover voucher programs to encourage more children and adults to invest in health and wellness opportunities.
- Recognition of swimming lessons as an essential service.
- Physical inactivity has far reaching economic consequences including a cost of $3.7 billion to the health system each year, and contribution to to death and disability costing $48 billion. Source: Barnsley P, Peden A, Scarr J. Economic Benefits of Australia’s Public Aquatic Facilities. Sydney, Australia: Royal Life Saving Society; 2017
- Exercise has proven benefits for mental health. A survey of 14,400 Aussies undertaken for Fitness Australia last year indicated that for 83 per cent of respondents, the key goal for going to the gym was supporting and improving mental health. Source: Consumer Impact of Gym Closures – Assessing the Essential Need For Gyms Report, Fitness Australia, 2020
Read Y NSW CEO, Susannah Le Bron’s open letter here.
Madeleine Clarke 0400 974 816 or Lyndal Stuart 0456 773 680Back to news