A major effect of the
pandemic was that we had to reduce our physical services. Being in lockdown for
months meant that we had to find new ways of reaching our young people and the
communities we serve. As part of this effort, we launched Virtual Y and released
the #YWeAreHere campaign.
Due to our reduction
in services, 90% of our staff (permanent and casual) were stood down or
de-rostered - this reached 5,054 out of 5,582 in May, 2020. At the time of
writing (November 2020), the number of staff who have returned to work has
reached 2,700 and rising. Many staff who have remained working throughout the
pandemic worked reduced hours during lockdown. Thankfully, during this time
many of our staff were supported by JobKeeper. Of those who have been stood
back up, 115 were reinstated to work on Virtual Y (funded by the Victorian
The recreation sector
in Victoria is one of the hardest hit in the country. It has been a long and
challenging road for our recreation staff, some of whom have not worked since
In March 2020, at the
beginning of the first lockdown, every Y-managed recreation site (55 sites
across 22 local government areas – excluding seasonal outdoor facilities) was
closed immediately and completely.
A few months later in
June, we were able to open in Victoria for a brief period as lockdown
restrictions lifted. 29 centres opened under tight government restrictions
including maximum group sizes and density quotients. This included pools for
lap swimming, group fitness, health and wellness, tennis and skate parks.
Stadiums remained closed, as did gymnastics, community halls, crèches and cafés
within our facilities.
When lockdown 2.0
happened in early July, all Victorian sites were closed again.
As of November 2020,
we are in Rec Restart 2.0 with restrictions slowly lifting. Outdoor pools and
outdoor fitness were the first to reopen, with different restrictions across
metro Melbourne and regional Victoria.
The Y-managed South
Australian Aquatic and Leisure Centre was the first pool to reopen in South
Australia, first with squad swimming and swimming lessons, then health and
wellness and fitness groups. SAALC has remained open throughout the pandemic
and has more than 50% of swim lessons and memberships reactivated.
As pools reopened, we
experienced extremely high demand from our customers. We implemented an online
booking system, requiring customers to pre-book before coming in to swim laps,
and ensuring we could manage capacity limits. At times pools booked out within
minutes of calendars being released. Occupancy has been at 100% across very
limited spaces, which has both been fantastic to see and challenging as many
people missed out initially.
As density limits
relax, customer anxiety has reduced as more spaces have become available,
making it easier to secure a booking.
We found ways to pivot
to online fitness, most notably on our Virtual Y platform, where our fitness
instructors tried their hand at delivering classes to the camera for the first
time. Customer feedback has been that Virtual Y has enabled members to continue
a routine with the Y instructors they know and love.
Before this, we
partnered with Les Mills On Demand to provide free access for all Y recreation
members, as well as staff and volunteers across Australia. This led to 25,000
registrations, 15,000 of which were in Victoria.
When centres reopened,
we implemented new COVID-safe measures to ensure all our visitors feel safe. We
have also made significant changes to timetabling across sites providing the
most popular classes to meet customer demand.
The Y has been
involved in a lot of advocacy for the recreation industry throughout COVID-19.
Through the Victorian Aquatic Industry Alliance (which included Swimming
Victoria, Aquatic and Recreation Victoria and Fitness Australia), we advocated
for a clearer path to recovery for our industry. Partnering with other
organisations in the recreation industry has meant we have an aligned and
supportive voice at the decision making tables.
JobKeeper has been of
enormous support for our recreation staff and has meant we can pass on the
benefit to our council partners. It has also enabled us to progressively bring
back staff who are receiving JobKeeper to work on planning and development to prepare
We also received
wonderful support from our council partners, who trusted us to manage the
management and operating costs of recreation centres during the closure
Gyms are one of the
last areas to reopen under the government’s roadmap to recovery and we know
that we will continue to operate under strict restrictions for some time. We’ve
experienced high demand from customers, booking out places in group fitness and
lap swimming. We must acknowledge, we will operate at a reduced capacity for
The Y would once again
like to thank our recreation staff and council partners, as well as our members
and casual visitors throughout this time. Despite the challenges we've had to,
and will continue to, overcome, the positive attitude and support shown by you
all has been incredible.
We really look forward
to the day when we can welcome back the community to our much-loved recreation
centres without heavy restrictions in place, and to welcome back all of our
staff who are so passionate about the recreation industry.