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Canberra Today 24°/27° | Tuesday, November 30, 2021 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Seniors angry at sudden sinking of swim session

Margaret Woodhams… “I can’t believe the classes won’t be operating anymore, it’s like slapping someone in the face for something they haven’t done.”

CANBERRA seniors have expressed anger and disbelief over Sport Australia’s snap decision to stop an exercise class they value. 

Margaret Woodhams, 76, has been attending aqua aerobics classes at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) Fitness Centre three times a week for 20 years, but learnt by email recently that sessions would not start up again after covid restrictions lifted.

Before covid restrictions, Ms Woodhams who lives in Evatt, says as many as 60 people could attend an aqua aerobic session at one time.

“It’s devastating,” Ms Woodhams says. 

“I can’t believe the classes won’t be operating anymore, it’s like slapping someone in the face for something they haven’t done.” 

Operated by Sport Australia, the AIS Aquatic and Fitness Centre at Bruce includes a 25-metre and 50-metre pool, a gym and a training pool. The centre also runs a range of fitness classes and programs.

A Sport Australia spokesperson confirmed that the public pool at the AIS will remain open, but the Fitness Centre won’t re-open and its programs will cease, once current lockdown restrictions are lifted in the ACT.

The Fitness Centre closure will impact the gym, personal training sessions, recovery programs, group fitness classes and school holiday programs but swimming classes won’t be affected, the spokesperson says, and will resume when permitted.

“The Fitness Centre and programs are no longer commercially viable in an increasingly competitive fitness sector,” the Sport Australia spokesperson says.

Members and holiday program participants are being contacted and refunds will be provided for any fees paid and unused from the start of the ACT lockdown.”

Although the Fitness Centre has been closed since the ACT went into lockdown in early August, Ms Woodhams says members feel “neglected” and believe they should have been consulted first.

“No forewarning, no consultation, they [Sport Australia] just made this decision to shut it down without offering alternatives,” Ms Woodhams says.

“The majority of clients using these facilities are aged well into their sixties, and some into their eighties.

“It’s just not fair.”

While some alternatives for classes have been suggested by the AIS, Ms Woodhams says those options are not good enough.

“Nowhere in Canberra provides the same level of support and dedication that is provided by the fitness and aqua-aerobics centre at the AIS,” Ms Woodhams says.

The aqua-aerobics program, used principally by seniors, focuses not only on fitness but also mobility, flexibility and balance. This is very important for people as they age.”

Ms Woodhams understands that rehabilitation and recovery classes are also set to cease.

The retired teacher-librarian says elderly citizens are about to lose the place that brought them together and kept them fit.

“Something that was there to keep us going and keep us fit has been taken away from us, like a rug has been pulled out from under our feet and we are flat on our backs and we can’t do anything about it,” Ms Woodhams.

“We used to meet after class for coffee, but now we won’t be able to do that.

“Sport Australia is supposed to be about encouraging participation for all Australians, but I feel very let down and disappointed by this decision.” 

Ms Woodhams says some Fitness Club members have requested a meeting with Sport Australia in the hope of “turning the decision around” but have had no response to date.

“It’s really devastating.”

A spokesperson for Sport Australia says the Fitness Centre is not used by High Performance Centres of Excellence or by visiting athletes and its closure will have “no impact” on the capabilities of the AIS to support Australia’s High Performance system.


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2 Responses to Seniors angry at sudden sinking of swim session

DavidH says: September 29, 2021 at 10:51 am

While the AIS is for training of our Elite athletes a major function was to also support and encourage healthy Australians through sport. Even elite athletes age and good health and fitness should be encouraged in all phases of life.

Unfortunately the introduction of the Sports Commission saw the once great AIS being broken down to fund the top heavy bureaucrats. Something I saw first hand years ago.
As a government institution, it is of course important that our taxpayer money should not be wasted, however it is not the role of the organisation to run at a profit. So any comparison to a commercial enterprises and gyms that need to to remain viable is to me, no argument.

An economic fact is keeping people healthy and fit throughout their whole life, not just in their senior years, reduces stress and expense on the health system and also raises general mental health and well being.

The timing of this closure of this facility would have to be the absolute worst, planned and executed by the most ruthless and insensitive public servants.
With the hidden realities and outcomes of the Covid pandemic barley having reached the surface, we are sitting on the edge of the abyss of social, mental and emotional turmoil.
It is at this time these facilities and programs should be expanding and being encouraged, not shut down.
Probably the last to admit it due to embarrassment and ego, so many people are hiding away in fear from this pandemic. The necessity for gentle encouragement to ‘leave the cave’ for physical, mental and emotional stimulus and recovery is paramount and should be everyone’s priority.

In this instance there is probably an even bigger agenda at play. For example, when the facilities are deemed to have little or even no long more use, they will be targeted for a quick demolition to make way for the devlopers grand new plans! Too common a trait in Canberra.

Jenni Pearcy says: October 27, 2021 at 7:35 pm

The AIS is owned by the Australian taxpayers! It is scandalous to read of the management’s plans to dispense with all the activities offered by the fitness centre. Very few Australian athletes train at the AIS on a permanent basis anymore so what is the point of a management that has less and less to manage. The other fitness centres don’t charge anymore for aqua aerobics and other fitness classes so why is the AIS Management asserting that the fitness centre is no longer viable. We deserve a better explanation and a better deal!


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