President's Message - June 2020

12 June 2020

As a nation we appear to be through the worst exposure to COVID-19, subject to not experiencing a second wave.

Clearly pandemics are not an exact science, the government and the National Cabinet have had to make some hard calls. Nothing is ever perfect on that score. But overall, the health of the nation has been well protected. 

As for our athletes, our elite swimmers are back in the pool around the country, under strict health protocols. It is our and their responsibility to make sure we now do the right thing.

In controlling the spread of COVID-19, it is clear our economy has been hit hard. Many projections expect the September - December quarter to be one of the hardest this country has faced in many years. This is a test of a country’s resilience and a test of our nations empathy for one another.

Our athletes continue to be funded so they can pursue their dream of the Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo 2021, thanks to our Patron Mrs Rinehart, Hancock Prospecting and the AIS and Sport Australia. Our athletes are fortunate, and they know it. Many people are doing it hard.

So, it is Swimming Australia's responsibility to show how we as a team can present ourselves at the highest level on the world's biggest sporting stage, the Olympic and Paralympic Games. I believe all parties are up for it, athletes, coaches, performance support staff and administration. We owe it to the nation.

Swimming is a major activity within our community. Around the country there is still restricted access to pools, but people at least are getting back. Our over 1000 swimming clubs are moving back from lock down. Our state federations are working hard to assist the clubs in their challenge to re-vitalise their membership bases. This is a challenge for all sporting clubs, not only swimming.

As a result of the global pandemic disruption, Swimming Australia has instituted what we call the ’Swimming Advisory Commission’. Members are drawn from board members from within Swimming Australia and members from our state federations. One of our aims is to project into the future. What should the sport look like to best relate to a new generation of young people coming up through the ranks? Not only the re-design of swimming events, a major ongoing project in itself, but how do we best project the stories from within. Broadcasting the rich inner stories.

'The internet has changed everything', that was a statement made in Silicon Valley in the late 90s.  How true this is and of particular relevance to now. In a visit to Facebook 18 months ago, key executives suggested that perhaps only 5% of the true potential of the internet is being utilised! What will it look like in say 10 years time? The mind boggles.

In raising the profile of our sport we now have the possibility of ‘virtual’ media hubs telling the stories of our athletes and their dreams. We don’t need a conventional media studio per se. The opportunity is to perhaps design an environment where we empower people from around the country to tell the inner stories. Much more than what is being done now. The end game is to present a much more compelling sport to end users. A forerunner of inside story telling is Driving to Survive, a look into the world of F1 motor racing and their teams. The most recent is The Last Dance, a documentary on the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan. The Last Dance has been a runaway rating success on Netflix.

We do not have all the answers, no one does. All ideas are welcome!  All we do know is with change, there is opportunity. We are entering a new world. 

Go Australia!

John Bertrand




John Bertrand AO

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