The Balwyn-Yarra Swim School opened in the February 1985 with some public swimming and club coaching (three sessions per week). The first of our public swimmers was Rosalie Bray who is still a regular swimmer today. The Club approached Helen Sonnleitner to take up the position as Centre Manager. Helen commenced as Manager in March 1985, when her commitments in Rockhampton were completed. She remained Manager until August 1997.

During this period there was much growth and many changes within the Swim School. The Swim School opened with thirty pupils. Helen undertook the positions of swim teacher, coach, cleaner and Manager, with Jackie Allen as the first receptionist and John Olsen as club coach. Sharing the pool with the Watsonia High School, the swim school operating hours were from 3:30 p.m. weekdays, often closing at 9:30 p.m. with late pool hire arrangements, and full time on weekends.

Know as The Herb Norman Swimming Pool


Weekly club competitions were held on Saturday afternoons. The charter for the swim school was to provide pool space for the club when required, to provide quality coaching for its members, and to offer a community service by providing professional teaching at a reasonable cost. In 1987 the swim school changed its name to Yarra Swim School to be synonymous with the area. At the same time it also changed its colours from yellow and green to blue and white. In 1992, with the closure of Watsonia High School and genuine fears of the pool being decommissioned, Helen instigated public petitions to keep the pool open and transfer the operations to the Club.

Negotiations commenced with the Diamond Valley Shire to obtain a lease. Further negotiations were then required when the area changed to Banyule City Council. At this time the swim school was able to operate full time and instead of paying a hiring fee but had to maintain all equipment and expenses. This allowed the swim school to expand its operations and increase the programs offered.


The pool was constructed former site of Watsonia High School, of which Herb Norman instrumental in the planning and overseeing the construction, and completion in 1977. As a tribute to his voluntary work and dedication to the school, he was honoured by having the pool bear his name. The Pool was opened in 1978 by Cr Pauline Toner MP.

It was during this period that we began offering a swimming program to schools and weekday learn-to-swim classes for babies from 6 months, toddlers, pre-schoolers and adults. On the 16th January 1997 the Yarra Plenty Swimming Club entered into an agreement to lease the pool from the Banyule City council. On the 24th January 1997, the $250,000 renovations commenced, with the addition of offices and family change rooms, as well as major pool maintenance. The Yarra Plenty Swimming Club contributed $50,000 and the Banyule City Council went guarantor for a $200,000 loan with the Commonwealth Bank to be repaid over a 15-year period.

The pool was closed for 4.5 months to enable the renovations to be completed and re-opened for second term in 1997. The number of participants grew from 30 in 1985 to over 2000 in the late 1990's during busy terms and we are currently at these exciting levels.