From bushfires to friendships – a history of the Olinda Community Pool
The decision to build what is now an iconic community swimming pool, in the Dandenong Ranges township of Olinda, came as a result of the devastating bushfires of 1962.
According to The Age newspaper, the Dandenong Ranges Fire Prevention Committee decided to build ‘a lake to be used for fire-fighting and designed as a swimming pool’ (16 February 1962). It was to be a ‘modernly equipped swimming pool, an amenity that will serve, in particular, the needs of children at schools in Kalorama, Olinda, Sassafras and Ferny Creek-Tremont (15 May 1962).
Over the next two years the local community raised more than £3000 of the £4500 required to build the pool. Olinda Pool was opened on 30 December 1964, and over the following decades became a magnet for local families on hot days over summer.
The 25m pool, with a deep end of 3.5m and a diving board, became a favourite hang-out for teenagers, who engaged in impromptu games of cricket and soccer between dips. A toddler pool provided safe, shallow water for younger children. Families met up with friends, shared picnic lunches, and the pool become a place where high school students could reconnect with their old primary school friends over summer.
In November 2013, the pool was closed when cracks were discovered. Local families, worried by the prospect of permanent closure, joined forces to run a campaign to Save the Olinda Pool. Meetings were held, local councillors and MPs were lobbied, and Hills children and teenagers sold stickers and handed out leaflets to raise support for reopening the pool.
On 7 October 2014, more than 300 local residents packed the Olinda Hall to send a clear message to the councillors and MPs present: Reopen the Olinda Pool!
One month later, following continued lobbying and campaigning by the Save the Olinda Pool group, the Yarra Ranges Council voted to repair and reopen the Pool in time for the 2015/16 summer. With the securing of state funding of $500,000 from local MP James Merlino, work began on repairing the pool in August 2015.
The Olinda Community Pool is once again the social hub for future generations during summer.