Council Battles To Save Australia's Oldest Public Pool

  • Family

By: Alex Harmon, ellaslist

Save the Dawnie! If you're an inner west local you may have heard this war cry around town. It's all to do with the gorgeous, historic salt water baths situated on a harbour peninsula at Elkington Park in Balmain. Sadly, the Dawn Fraser Bath are in danger of closure due to a battle between Inner West councillors over the urgent repairs. The pool, renamed in the 1960s after local Olympic champion Dawn Fraser who learnt to swim there, needs around $6.7 million in repairs, such as raising the boardwalk and pavilions to overcome sea level rises.

The Dawn Fraser Baths feature a tidal salt water pool and is home to Australia’s oldest swimming club. Built in the 1880s, the Baths are Australia's oldest existing public pool. 

As stunning as they are, an investigation found the heritage-listed pool is so rundown it poses a public safety risk.

Image via Sydney Morning Herald

Salt in the Wounds

A suggestion by Mayor Darcy Byrne to take $1.1 million from the Balmain Public Square project to help pay for the project was rejected.

The iconic facility is, according to Mayor Byrne, “at risk of being condemned in a few years if we don’t do a proper refurbishment.

“Because of sea level rises and the deterioration of the timber, the whole pool needs to be lifted up which is a very expensive exercise.

“The simple fact is if we don’t undertake the works to keep the doors open, within a couple years Dawn Fraser pool will be lost."

Why We Love The Dawnie

The shark-proof tidal bath is a bit of a local's secret, so they will probably curse me for telling you all about it! But it's just so beautiful. It's managed to remain relatively untouched, unlike the rest of gentrified Balmain, in fact it's the only enclosed harbour pool that remains in its original form in the Southern Hemisphere. The kids love it at low tide when a small beach is revealed, perfect for wading and sandcastles. Oh and the kiosk sells the best hot chips in town!

Take A Dip

Children under 5 are free and adult entry is $5.50. The season commences the start of Daylight Saving (October) to the end of Daylight Savings (April). Find out more about visiting the baths here.

Fnd out more about the draft master plan to save the pool and have your say here.

Main image via Australia Swims

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