Life seems to slow down a pace or two when you enter Petersham Park Pool or rather, Fanny Durack Aquatic Centre, as it was renamed in 1999. Very popular with families with young children, the 48-year-old complex includes a 33-metre pool and a children’s wading pool. No one swims particularly fast at this inner west pool but they enjoy diving in and doing a few leisurely laps.
The relaxed mood of the place reflects its location within the grounds of the 123-year-old Petersham Park and oval, where in 1926 18-year-old Don Bradman scored 110 in his first appearance in grade cricket. Some of the old-world charm of the park with its picket fence, bandstand and avenue of trees carries through to the pool. But the pool also has a touch of inner city grunge. On one side old camphor laurel trees overlook the pool; on the other side, the outlook is the backs of ageing terrace houses, one decorated in Buddhist flags.
A champion of women’s rights, Fanny was at loggerheads with swimming officials at different times in her six-year swimming career in which she held 12 world records. After retiring from the sport in 1918 due to appendicitis, Fanny took up coaching. She would have been very at home at the pool in the park at Petersham. No doubt she could have taught the laid-back swimmers who frequent this pool a technique or two.
Plans are before Marrickville Council to upgrade Fanny Durack Aquatic Centre to replace the 33-metre pool with a 25-metre pool, add a 15-metre program pool, refurbish the foyer and changing rooms and add a new deck and cafe. Stayed tuned.