Full History of LIWA Aquatics

1950's - 60's

In 2019 LIWA Aquatics celebrate our 50th Annual Conference as an incorporated body but there had been one-day local government conferences conducted annually from the late 50’s which included the pool managers and often the Shire Clerks. There were many pools constructed after the 1956 Olympics and the managers formed a loose alliance to assist each other. The current industry focus of “Maintaining the Network” was born from this loose alliance of the need to assist each other in an industry that did not typically have competing interests. At these conferences the pool managers discussed water quality, filtration and general operations of their facility (often focused on the kiosk and how to get a better return) and the Shire Clerks and Engineers looked at maintenance and finances. But the real catalyst for change came as a result of a workplace survey and the determination of an Industry Award that included a clause along the lines of: Working Hours Summertime – “The Hours That Are Required”. This one clause caused quite a ruction and galvanised managers to form a group to represent the industry through the Municipal Officers Association (the ASU as it is known today).

1960's -70's

On the 22nd of September 1967 at the 10th annual conference in Kalamunda, industry members present elected a steering committee to investigate the formation of the Swimming Pool Managers Association. Industry representatives that included Merv Millar, Bob Bastow and George Hinchcliffe were elected and began work on developing a fledgling Pool Managers Association. This group reported back to the 1968 conference in Narambeen and the decision was made to meet in Perth during the off season to form the association and adopt a constitution. This meeting was held on the 18th of July 1969 and Bob Bastow was elected as the first President of The Swimming Pool Managers Association of Western Australia. The industry was on its way with a committee that was passionate and motivated. The first elected committee also included Life Member Fred Smith who has not missed an AGM or conference dinner in anyone’s memory. Fred will attend the 50th annual conference in August so make sure you shake his hand and thank him for his contribution stretching back over 50 years.

The early 70’s was a difficult time for the fledgling organisation as it worked hard to establish itself and be recognised by all tiers of government. Membership fees were set at $3.00 per annum and members of the committee contributed a great deal of time to the development of the industry. This was largely done outside work hours or in the off-season and often conducted in the evening at the President's Pool of the time. But issues that drove the committee at that time focused on the delivery of relevant training for its members and ensuring theses qualifications were available and affordable. The National Safety Council Course that many industry members completed came into being with little input from the committee and caused industry discontent for many years with certain groups aligning one way or another. In 1971 an industry conference was promoted by Ron Cooper and was held at the Canning Aquatic Centre and by historical accounts was a great success and has paved the way for the annual event that galvanises our industry now. Around this time the constitution was re-written and a name change was accepted and adopted “The Australian Institute of Pool Management ” was then first incorporated.

The issue of industry determining its own standards was one that dragged on for a long period and took its toll on the office bearers of the time and it is one I can relate to as the 90’s was a time of change, but more on that later. The committee did not want to be dictated to by a body (the National Safety Council) but with no paid executive support and working from a purely volunteer base fighting for change was always going to be difficult. But to its credit the Institute Board members took it upon themselves to visit country pools and this did a lot to improve the Institutes image and to encourage membership. The Board also took on issues such as Award Wages in 1975 and liaised with local government on the development of new facilities and consistent By-Laws for local pools.

In 1978 John Robertson was elected President and like Fred Smith you will be able to thank John for his contribution at the Conference Dinner in August. John was fortunate that many of the founding members maintained positions on the Board and were able to provide the necessary support for the new President. At this time individual contributions were being recognised with George Green and Vic Dennis being awarded Life Memberships followed by Bob Bastow.

An incident at this time caused by the lack of winter rain was the discovery of Naegleria fowleri that caused a panic in the industry as the bug could be found in untreated water. The Institute was immediately on the front foot and worked closely with state and local government to convene a seminar which attracted just under 100, mainly council staff members. Dr Richard Lugg who is well know to many in our industry addressed the seminar on the containment of the Amoebic Meningitis and the requirement for additional chlorination. This is just one issue that helped established the Institute in the eyes of both the State and Local Government as it was now understood that Pool Managers did more than open a pool on a hot day. They were also now viewed as being responsible for Public Health!


John Robertson held the role of President until the early 80’s and presided over a time in the Institutes history that saw the industry develop as more facilities were being built and more in the planning stage. It was also a time when it was much harder to get off the Board than it was to get on! John had the support of long serving members, but it was difficult to entice people onto the Board as they lacked the vision of those who could see the need for the Institute at that time. John handed over the baton of President to Ron Triplett, Ron sadly passed away last year but was a greatly respected member of our industry. His funeral eulogy focused on family, football and a life in aquatics but a life that may have been very different if he did not return to the family farm and then to the local pool as a career in football was certainly in the offering for Ron.

With little time available the Board at this time focused on the annual conferences and attracting membership. During Ron’s tenure as President meetings were conducted on the 3rd Tuesday of the month at Melville Aquatic Centre from 7:30pm. Ron was often running backwards and forwards dealing with problems on the pool deck during the meetings trying to juggle work and industry commitments at the same time.

In 1987 Peter Duff from the City of Swan was elected as the Institutes President a position he maintained for two years before stepping down at the 1989 Conference at Point Walter. This period was one of flux for the Institute with a name change to the “Institute of Aquatic Recreation Management – IARM” and almost a completely new committee elected that year. The Institute was very fortunate that John and Ron stayed on the committee for a number of years providing critical guidance and history to the new Board. The elected officials at that time were Peter Byrne President, Dawne Thomas Secretary, Paul Dowding Treasurer and a committee of Karen Kelly, Chris Blankley, Tony Head, Ron Tripplett, John Robertson and Colin Hassell.

This committee guided the Institute through four years of growth and change with a clear focus on that old issue of industry training and development. It was an issue that had dogged the industry for many years and had finally got to a situation where the Pool Managers Course could be completed in three days with little or no industry input except from those with vested interests. The Board of IARM fought hard to gain input and gradually clawed back ground that saw the course being delivered by South East Metropolitan TAFE with industry personnel front and centre in the delivery alongside the WA Health Department. It was a great start, but the issue still had a long way to play out before it was truly seen as a course for industry delivered by industry.

As leaders both Peter and Dawne had strong entrepreneurial backgrounds and raised the profile of the Institute with trade suppliers, local and state governments. It was a period of increased memberships and conferences moved from pubs and sports halls to major conference venues across the metropolitan and regional areas. Membership became a critical focus as did more engagement with country members as issues such as supervision and training become more and more important. The legacy that Peter and Dawne left after their 4 years of stewardship of the Institute was instrumental in changing the direction of the organisation and imbuing a more professional face to the organisation. Dawne remained very active in the industry on the east coast as President of the Aquatic Recreation Institute and was pivotal in changing the direction of that organisation as well seeing the Aquatic Recreation journal being a major form of communication for the industry nationally.


In 1993 there was once again a major change in the leadership of the Institute when Tony Head was elected President and Michael “Mick” Doyle elected as the Secretary. The majority of the Board remained in tact, but it also included the election of your current President, Jeff Fondacaro who after 12 months on the Board took on the role of Treasurer. It was a sustained period of Board stability which included strong regional representation with Bill Carlsen from Bunbury and Colin Hassell making a 900km round trip from Geraldton to Perth once a month for almost 15 years to attend Board Meetings.

It was also a time for another name change for the Institute and one that has lasted the longest in the history of the Institute. At the AGM at the Joondalup Resort in 1996 The Leisure Institute of Western Australia (Aquatics) was born and it still carries the same DNA from that first meeting in 1969. How the name came about will be known to some but is a story for another article.

From 1994-2001 the Institute continued to provide communication, advocacy, annual conferences as well as the developing a much stronger regional focus but was still a purely volunteer organisation that attracted no government funding or support. The country and northwest seminars started from humble beginnings to a point now in 2019 that they are on the annual calendar and continue to engender the Maintaining the Network spirit. Three individuals stand out for the contribution they made to the regions, Karen Kelly, Peter Leaversuch and Chris Blankley. They gave and continue to give their time and passion to ensuring that regional issues were always considered by the Board and it is little wonder that all three have been recognised with Life Membership of the Institute.

During the late 90’s there was a real change in the organisation as strong alliances and partnerships were formed in particular with Royal Life Saving Society Western Australia and the Department of Sport and Recreation as it was then. Alex McKenzie and Ron Alexander become the champions of LIWA Aquatics and through their astute support and the hard work of committee members the organisation continued to flourish with bigger and better conferences and more funding for regional issues. It was also a time when the WA Health Department first promulgated the notion of a Code of Practice for the Aquatic Industry which would eventually include, Industry Accreditation. This pending change (albeit 12 years in the making) and the arrival of Competency Based Training were two of the three keystones for the development of LIWA Aquatics over next 20 years. The other being Watch Around Water, which came later but quickly became the most important parental supervision program in public pools across Australia.

LIWA Aquatics engagement with the Industry Training Council (ITC) and RLSSWA was pivotal in resting the training of prospective new Pool Managers away from the bureaucracy of South East Metro TAFE and the establishment of a new paradigm of training delivery. It was the vision of Mal Gammon (ITC), Ian Brown (RLSSWA), Roz Howell and John Potter (Central TAFE) as well a financial and intellectual contribution from LIWA Aquatics that changed the training landscape. This was a first in that a partnership was formed between a private RTO, a TAFE College and an industry peak body. The course which was offered to industry in 2001 was the first to deliver publicly funded training of a recognised cluster of Units of Competence from a National Training Package. The course costs fell from $1200 fee for service down to under $100 for the funded training, a win for industry and the aquatic community. Once again, this section of LIWA Aquatics history would stand-alone as an interesting article but it would be remiss not to recognise David Love for his role in developing the initial standards and to Central TAFE and RLSSWA for giving the industry the opportunity to determine its own training outcomes.

With this training in place it opened up more opportunities and funding for with a sum of over $400,000 allocated by the Federal Government for Existing Worker Traineeships. This opportunity was a catalyst for many industry members to obtain a Certificate III in Sport and Recreation as well as the critical qualification of Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. Our industry now had qualified trainers and the Registered Training Organisations had access to industry professionals with creditability and experience to delivery Competency Based Training and Assessment. This was a first nationally and LIWA Aquatics and RLSSWA were recognised for this partnership and the early adoption of competency-based training and the use of a rigorous On The Job Assessment process for Pool Operations and Pool Lifeguard Training. This process itself assisted in raising the standards of facility documentation and a better understanding of risk management in the aquatic environment.


2001 was a watershed year for LIWA Aquatics as the City of Joondalup outsourced the operation of Craigie Leisure Centre and many of the operational staff were made redundant. Royal Life Saving saw an opportunity to assist industry, the needs of their own organisation and the opportunity for LIWA Aquatics to further develop with the administrative support it had been sadly lacking for many years. It is very gratifying to see that nearly 20 years later that support is still in placed with a strong partnership that continues to benefit the aquatic community. The role that Ian Brown, Peter Leaversuch and Alex McKenzie from RLSSWA played and their belief in LIWA Aquatics as an organisation was pivotal in assisting industry reach its potential.

About this time in 2003 we had the great fortune of seeing our current Executive Officer, Steve Good elected to the Board and his impact was felt immediately with the development of a new website, assisting the then Treasurer Jeff Fondacaro with transition to new accounting software and an infectious attitude for change. It was also a period of great introspection for the industry as it was rocked to its core by a number of drownings in major metropolitan aquatic facilities. The City of Vincent, LIWA Aquatics and Royal Life Saving looked for answers to these tragic deaths through a collaborative research project looking at how to better manage supervision on the pool deck. The industry was also supported by the then State Coroner Mr Alistair Hope who in his findings clearly articulated the position that “Lifeguards could not be the sole guardians on pool deck and that parental supervision was a critical component of that shared responsibility”.

The outcome of these tragic circumstances was the development of Watch Around Water in Western Australian and it further cemented the relationship between RLSSWA and LIWA Aquatics as advocates for change. The program was implemented gradually with pilot facilities taking on the role as community educators and examining how the changes to supervision guidelines would be accepted. There was some pushback from parents wanting to know why they had to be in the water and be within arm’s reach of their child if he or she was under five years of age. But the explanation was a simple one, “Parents Supervise and Lifeguards Save Lives!

The program was evaluated and ready to be launched to the wider Western Australian aquatic community. It is a LIWA Aquatics program and is managed on our behalf by RLSSWA. The initial program manager was Francene Leaversuch who did a lot of the heaving lifting and research in program development. Since that time the industry has had the great fortune to have Lauren Nimmo work closely with LIWA Aquatics to continue the development and evolution of this critical component of facility water safety. Lauren has also been instrumental in seeing the program grow in Victoria and South Australia as well as liaising with the USA and the UK on how the program has benefitted the local industry. Since the inception of Watch Around Water there has not been a drowning death of a young child in a Western Australian Aquatic Facility. One of the proudest moments in LIWA Aquatics history was to have Coroner Hope open the Annual State Conference in 2013. In his concluding statements Mr Hope expressed his congratulations to LIWA Aquatics and Royal Life Saving Western Australia on the outstanding success of Watch Around Water. He was effusive in his praise of the incredible penetration it has had in reducing the death by drowning of young children in Western Australian aquatic facilities to zero over the past 10 years.

2007 saw a number of landmarks for the LIWA Aquatics, the main ones being the election of Jeff Fondacaro as President of the Institute, Steve Good stepping into the Treasures position and Bev Bridgland the Secretary of the Institute. It was also a year when the Department of Sport and Recreation formalised a three-year funding agreement with LIWA Aquatics to support its operation and fund a staff member for the organisation through its OSP (Ongoing Support Program). A level of financial support that is still in place today through the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries. The trifecta for 2007 was the long-awaited completion of Code of Practice for the Design, Construction, Operation, Management, and Maintenance of Aquatic Facilities, and which replaced the previous Health (Swimming Pool) Regulations 1964.

All three of the above when viewed in isolation are pivotal factors in the growth of the Institute but coming as they did in close succession to each other was extraordinary. The Code of Practice was 12 years in the making when it was fully endorsed in 2008. Llew Withers (current LIWA Aquatics Board Member), Mark Lewis and Brian Devine from WA Health all were critical in the final sign-off of the Code. It was a watershed document that provided a blue print for the design, construction and operation of aquatic facilities. It also documented the required standard of operational qualifications for Group One Pool Operators and in a first nationally called for the professional accreditation to LIWA Aquatics. During the three-year adoption period from 2008 to 2011 many hundreds of accreditations were issued and to date (July 2, 2019) that figure has reached 1058.

In 2008 Peter Leaversuch stepped in to the role as the first Executive Officer of LIWA Aquatics managing the day to day operations of the organisation with direction from a very committed Board. Peter did an amazing job as he juggled his role with RLSSWA and pressing industry issues and deliverables, including two regional seminars and the state conference. The following year Tony Head stepped into the position and assisted the industry through a period of sustained growth and development. RLSSWA continued to provide housing and infrastructure support to the Institute as it continued it journey in Maintaining the Network. At this time the Board of LIWA Aquatics made the strategic decision to fund the continuation of a national magazine that would be delivered free of charge to every Group One Pool in Australia. The Aquatic Recreation Australia (ARA) Journal was born with the goal to maintain communication and build on the great work of ARI NSW who had undertaken that role for many years previous.

One further key to the development of LIWA Aquatics has been the support of Local Government in promoting the need for staff to attend relevant professional development as required by the Code of Practice. The conference has always been well supported by the commercial sector of our industry but a number of companies clearly stand out as they have been with LIWA Aquatics for the long hall. Chadson Engineering, Shenton Enterprises, Links Modular Solutions, Sigma Chemicals and Trisley’s Hydraulic Services have been unwavering in their long-time support of LIWA Aquatics and its members. On the back of this support the annual and regional conferences developed with interstate and internationally renown presenters such as Justin Semsprott and Tom Griffiths joining the LIWA Aquatics family. With such success in the delivery of the state conference funding has grown for Watch Around Water to an extent now that members have committed over a $200,000 back into the program over the last 16 years.

13.2 million dollars is a lot of money, particularly when it was earmarked by the State Government through its Royal for Regions Program to fund programs, maintenance and asset replacement in 90 regional aquatic facilities across. This was a once in a generation opportunity that came about through a conversation between LIWA Aquatics Life Member Colin Hassell and Local Member Hon, Mia Davies about how the National Party could better assist aquatic facilities across the regions. The provision of $32,000 a year for a four year period was an amazing outcome and when funds could not be effectively dispersed, LIWA Aquatics played a role to provide a range of equipment and training options that benefited regional WA aquatic facilities.

These funds also provided an opportunity to work closely with our longtime partner Water Corporation to provide water audits and develop the tools for many regional aquatic Centre’s to become a part of the Waterwise Pools Program. A program that to date has seen 41 facilities endorsed (7 more working towards endorsement) as Waterwise and assisted in community education and reduced water usage across the state in our pools. Water Corporation have been great supporters of LIWA Aquatics for many years and a number of the staff have gone above and beyond but no one more so than Michelle Thomas who has a passion for her role. Our industry guru Geoff Diver has driven thousands of kilometers to assist regional pools understand their water usage and has truly made a difference.

As we approach the 50th Annual Conference it would be remiss not thank everyone that has assisted in the growth and development of the Institute in those 50 years. Countless volunteer hours attending Board Meetings, working parties, delivering training and contributing to the development of our great industry. It is not possible to mention every individual by name, but they are aware of their contribution to the greater good. LIWA Aquatics is a well-respected, well-resourced and resilient organisation that has made a massive difference to the aquatic landscape locally, nationally and internationally and is very proud to represent its members and Western Australia.

By Vic Dennis (Dec) and Tony Head