Julie Lewis reflects on 28 years at Queanbeyan Pool

Published on 15 March 2023

Woman standing in front of outdoor pool

After 28 years working at the Queanbeyan pool, senior pool attendant Julie Lewis is ready to throw in the towel — although anyone who knows her would tell you she’ll be folding it up and packing it away nicely.

Known for her can-do attitude and old-school, no-nonsense approach, Julie’s retirement marks the end of an era for many patrons who can’t imagine the facility without her.

Although Julie’s lived and worked in Queanbeyan most of her life, regulars at the pool are always surprised to find out she’s not a local.

Julie grew up in Byron Bay where her parents were heavily involved in the local swim club. She also swam competitively there for a while.

‘I grew up in the water, the beach and the surf. It’s just relaxing,’ Julie said.

‘It’s been my life – the water.’

Before starting as a seasonal lifeguard in 1995, Julie worked in the Navy and served at HMAS Harman as a leading seaman for almost a decade.

During her time at the pool, Julie has worked in just about every position on offer.

Whether she’s been a casual, a duty manager, a senior lifeguard or a fill-in when the manager’s chair has been empty, Julie’s unfailing work ethic has not only been a pillar of the pool’s success but has set the standard many of her colleagues aim to emulate.

One of those is the pool’s Operations Manager and Julie’s boss, Corey Elton, who describes the pool’s monarch as his ‘work mum’.

‘I don’t think anyone here has worked with Julie as long as I have,’ he says.

Corey started as a casual lifeguard at the pool in February 2007 and has worked with Julie ever since.

With Julie and two other senior pool attendants under his supervision, Corey says managing Julie is one of the easiest parts of his job.

‘I know that if I leave here, Julie makes sure everyone’s safe, everything’s done properly, everything’s cleaned probably better than it needs to be. She’ll make sure she scrubs things until they sparkle not shine,’ Corey said.

‘She just goes above and beyond.’

A true leader who doesn’t ask of others what she wouldn’t happily do herself, Corey says he respects Julie ‘more than anyone’.

‘When you see managers that lead by example and get it, and you see them scrubbing the toilet, you see them hosing pool decks, you see them staying back and starting early — that’s the person you want to be.’

Whether Julie’s been his boss, they’ve held equivalent positions, or he’s been her manager, Corey’s entire career at the facility has been guided by one perennial question — ‘what would Julie do?’.

‘I feel like I’ve grown into a mature, hardworking individual because of Julie,’ Corey said.

‘I feel like she’s half the reason I work the way I do nowadays.’

Unable to stand still for long, Julie often puts her younger co-workers to shame — especially when it comes time to clean the changerooms.

Corey says his junior staff often start off with a groan when he pulls out the cleaning kit trolley.

‘And then they see Julie doing it and go, “Oh wow, she’s mid-sixties and she’s showing me up and I’m sixteen! I don’t even know how to use a scrubbing brush.”’

Julie says it feels good to know that she’s been a real mentor and role-model to the junior staff that have come and gone during her tenure at the pool.

‘I love the place and I’m very passionate for it and I want it to keep going,’ she said.

Although it’s had its challenges, Julie has loved her time working at the pool and is proud to have been a part of a place where the community can ‘all get together and have a bit of fun.’

As she passes the torch to the next generation, Julie’s advice to young people looking to become lifeguards is simple — be passionate about the work and be aware.

‘Keep your eye out,’ Julie says.

‘You’re not going to see everything, but make sure if there is something going on, you’re there and you can see it.’

Lucky for us, Julie says she’s planning to come back on a casual basis and promises she’ll ‘still always be down here’ for her regular swims.

Corey and the rest of her QPRC Aquatics family say she’ll be pretty hard to replace.

‘I don’t see the place with her not being here,’ Corey said.

‘She’s jokingly said that one day she’ll die at the pool. That sounds very morbid, but she said, “I’m going to die at the pool and you’re going to swim me down lane four in the outdoor pool because that’s my lane!”’