The last days of Petersham Pool


All the regulars were at Petersham Pool this morning. Many of them were having their last swim before it closes on Sunday. They were also enjoying the pool in its original state, possibly for the last time. While plans are not yet approved, it is envisaged that over winter Marrickville Council will redevelop the nearly 50-year-old complex.

The locals admit their pool, officially called the Fanny Durack Aquatic Centre after the gold-medal winning local, is in need of some work. At the same time they say they will miss the unpretentious, ‘daggy’ place, which opened in September 1962.


Lu Bell, who has lived in Petersham all her life, started swimming there in 1965 after returning home from a number of years backpacking around the world and living in Canada.  She remembers the days when there would be queues of people lined up in Petersham Park waiting to get into the pool.

With her family well-connected with the local council, in the late 60s and during the 70s Lu had a key to the pool. This enabled her to swim at 5am each morning before heading off to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital where she worked  as a medical secretary.


“My parents were very keen Labor people. There was only Labor here in those days – no Greens or Liberals. And so they knew councillors. I can’t remember the opening time of the pool but it was a bit late so they gave me a key at the start of the season and I returned it at the end. They were different times and things change.”


Petersham resident Matt O’Neill has been swimming at the pool in park since he and his wife moved to the suburb in 1975. His four children spent their childhood there. He says it was great having a pool so close. “You could just roll out of bed and head down. I remember one fellow used to walk down to the pool in his dressing gown.

“It’s sort of hidden; people don’t know it’s here and we like it that way,” says Matt.  “It is definitely one of the best pools in Sydney. It’s so quiet and you can always get a lane to do your laps.”


Joe from Summer Hill calls the pool paradise. He swims there seven days a week and loves gazing up into the large trees in Petersham Park that overlook the aquatic space. As he very leisurely breast-strokes up and down, the Portuguese-born 69-year-old says he expects to see monkeys in the trees.

Sunday is your last chance to experience this inner-west beauty. It may not be as peaceful as usual on Sunday as the council has organised an end of season open day with free admission (between 10am and 2pm), jumping castle and great family fun.


At the pool you can view plans for the upgrading which include reconfiguration of the existing 6-lane, 33-metre pool into an 8-lane, 25-metre pool. Other changes include a a new children’s wading pool, new splash deck, a new cafe, modified landscaping and outdoor seating area with additional shade structures and introduction of a new filtration system. The pool’s amenities and change facilities have already been refurbished and are very smart. Stay tuned.


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  • Dear Therese. I’ve just realised I wasn’t following Swimming Pool Stories. I am now. I will be back for more stories. Love the background photo. Luv Trude XOXOX

  • Hello,

    Great blog – found it when I was looking for information about what’s happening with Petersham Park pool. Anyway, you’ll be pleased to know that the pool at Petersham is open again (as of 1st October 2011) and still it’s daggy 33-metre best. Thank God. Although I must admit it looks quite patchy in places. Seems like the council aren’t redeveloping it quite yet … although it remains a mystery when/why/if they will.

    Happy swimming!

  • Thanks Insey – yes I had a walk down at Petersham Park the other morning and was surprised to see it open. Apparently the council has put off the redevelopment till next year supposedly. We will see… See you at the pool.

  • Hi I’m looking for anyone who use to use this pool back in the early 70’s as a child and have any information about there experiences there.would love to hear their feedback if not on here you can Contact me at

    • Hi Margarita, in summer time I swim at Petersham Pool or rather Fanny Durack Aquatic Centre and a number of the regulars have been swimming there for years so they will probably have memories. Will send you an email. Therese

  • Looking for information on the picture of the guy named Joe from summer Hill was he a life guard buy any chance.

    • Hi Margarita, no he wasn’t a lifeguard. He was just a guy who used to come to the pool a lot and enjoy the water and the sunshine. He was Portuguese if I remember correctly. I will email you with any other info I have. Cheers, Therese


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