Bruce Meakins interview, 9 October, 2014, 4 November, 2014 and 28 November 2014

Dublin Core


Bruce Meakins interview, 9 October, 2014, 4 November, 2014 and 28 November 2014


UWA Sport and Recreation Association


In 1972, Bruce Meakins took part in the Asthma Swimming Programme at UWA. He studied at UWA from 1977 to 1979 and graduated with a degree in Human Movement in 1980. After graduation he worked for the YMCA.
In 1984 Bruce was employed by the Guild to run the fitness centre at UWA. In 1986, he studied for a full-time Diploma in Education while working full-time for the Guild and expanding the Recreate Programme. In 1996, Voluntary Student Unionism was passed in WA. Bruce became director of the newly formed UWA Sport & Recreation Association which had to learn to adapt and be proactive in an era of uncertainty and change.
It is to Bruce’s credit that sport and recreation at UWA has thrived under his leadership. Today, the UWA Sport & Recreation Association is more closely aligned with the university in terms of its vision and business strategy. The Association will face more challenges in the future but it is now much better equipped to deal with them.


Meakins, Bruce


University of Western Australia Historical Society


Copyright holder University of Western Australia


MP3 files


Oral History

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Julia Wallis


Bruce Meakins


Crawley, W.A.


Interview 1: 1 hour, 1 minute, 51 seconds
Interview 2: 1 hour, 2 minutes, 33 seconds
Interview 3: 1 hour, 6 minutes, 28 seconds
Total: 3 hours, 10 minutes, 52 seconds

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbs

Time Summary

Interview 1

Track 1
00:00 Introduction by Julia Wallis

Track 2
00:00 Born Prospect, South Australia on 4 April 1959. Moves to WA aged 8. Family settle in Mount Hawthorn. Attends Mt Hawthorn Primary School and later Perth Modern School, Subiaco. A good music programme attracted good quality teachers. Did Duke of Edinburgh Award – bronze, silver and gold over a 3 year period. Asthmatic but his family encouraged fishing and camping. The Duke of Edinburgh Award involved several components: service contribution; an interest of choice; a physical activity and to prepare and execute an expedition.
07:51 Got good marks at school and was steered towards the academic programme. He got the highest marks for English which he didn’t study for. A medical degree would have been too onerous on the family finances. In about 1972, he took part in an asthma study at UWA. Got significant improvements in health from the swimming programme. Paddling was also an activity that caused less asthma whereas running is detrimental.
14:15 Introduced to YMCA through Duke of Edinburgh Award and did leadership activities with them. Found he enjoyed working with people and decided to do a degree in Physical Education. The fourth year of study was the teaching component. Continued working with YMCA and was offered some part-time work while he was studying.
16:38 The Department of Sports Science was located on the ground floor of the Reid Library. Lectures were held in the Octagon Theatre. Part of the course involved studying Human Biology, Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology. It was a new course structure. Lived at home with his parents. Found the campus very large and didn’t get to know that many people especially as he was doing activities outside. He did not join any university clubs.
20:50 Many of the students in his course were very sports focussed. There were large cohorts from the private schools who had done traditional sports. There were not many international students but there were several teachers who came from the Eastern States seeking a higher degree. Physical Education involved a practical component teaching various sports. The laboratory work – biology and anatomy was fascinating. They also studied physiology and bio mechanics. Computers were beginning to be used.
24:03 It was the early days of using science to improve fitness and performance and to recover from injury. At the cutting edge were people such as Frank Pyke, John Bloomfield (Head of School) and Brian Blanksby. People went overseas to gain knowledge and brought that back to Australia.
26:31 Local community work in the YMCA involved working with children’s activities and camps. When a camp director left, Bruce offered to run the summer camps. A Canadian then came in to run the camps. She brought in knowledge from North America where the YMCA was getting involved in fitness, health and safety. Aerobics was becoming popular. The YMCA started to run fitness centres and fitness programmes. The YMCA allowed Bruce to work even though he did not have his teaching diploma. It was always his intention to go back and do it. Bruce set up international exchange programmes and organised to go to North America to study the new techniques and ideas. In the meantime, he had become good friends with the Canadian lady who later became his wife.
30:37 When Bruce was a student, UWA did not have a swimming pool for recreation – it was only there for study programmes. Kevin Finch who ran the asthma programme went on to become an Olympic doctor. Brian Blanksby became Head of School. Alan Morton later became Head of School. The recreation centre was built in 1970. There was a three court sports hall, squash courts and tennis courts plus the sports ovals. Students took part in the traditional clubs such as cricket and football. There was a rowing club but no canoeing club. There were no fitness classes although there were some free weights in the gym. There was an athletics club. Bruce swam at pools such as Beatty Park.
35:17 Bruce spent most of the day on campus and studied and used the library between lectures. He generally brought his own lunch. There was a refectory at the Guild and a coffee shop at Hackett Hall which was the old refectory. He didn’t visit the Guild. In 1979, Bruce graduated in Winthrop Hall where he had taken his exams. He was the first in his family to go to university. Luckily, education was free at this time. He moved out of home after he graduated and shared a house with university friends.
38:18 Bruce went to America for 10 months in 1981. He enjoyed a personal study period; attended conferences and visited various YMCAs; did a canoeing trip and then travelled and did some hiking and climbing. Cardiac related health was very much to the fore in the USA. The YMCA was also interested in children’s preventative health programmes. He married his Canadian wife in Canada while he was away. The YMCA focussed on Body, Mind and Spirit which complemented what he had learned in Sports Science. The YMCA began to formalise training in fitness and health and encourage healthy activity. Bruce learnt CPR in America.
46:09 Many people in the USA were overweight and ate junk food in large portions. Bruce began to take an interest in encouraging non-athletes to live a healthy lifestyle. He used what he had found out in America to run programmes and activities back in Australia. He taught aerobics classes. The YMCA classes were the precursor to the modern gym classes.
51:39 The YMCA also ran healthy back programmes. They were exploring the idea of having classes before and after work. Women enjoyed group classes whereas men enjoyed the gym environment. Bruce believes that Australians have more international awareness as they travel extensively. He was fired up to do some of what he had learnt and apply it at home.
54:24 Outdoor activities were more structured in the USA as they have a larger population. Their natural heritage was more commercialised. Kids’ camps in Perth were organised at Rottnest and Mundaring. Camps were to encourage children to grow in all areas – not just in sport. Scouts and church groups were doing similar activities. The 60s were the era of structured youth activities. This broke down in the 70s, particularly around the time of the Vietnam War.

Interview 2

Track 1
00:00 Introduction by Julia Wallis

Track 2
00:00 In February 1984, Bruce left the YMCA and took a job with the Guild Sport & Recreation Department at UWA to run the Recreation Centre. The Fitness Centre had only been set up for 3-4 years and had 500-600 members. It concentrated on the weights room. The job included testing people coming into the fitness centre, employing staff and running the centre. Bruce decided to focus on the broader aspects of fitness and not just weights training. He fitness-tested between 5-12 people a day – students and staff. He met some interesting people and encouraged them to take responsibility for their own lives.
05:08 The building expanded soon after Bruce started. The Recreate programme was a menu of different activities for people to try. Different fitness classes were incorporated in the programme. Bruce wanted the Centre to encourage people to grow their health and well-being. He started the Avon Attack programme which helped people every step of the way to train, prepare for and carry out the Avon Descent. 80% to 90% of participants finished the event. An early morning fitness programme was developed which was followed by nutritional breakfast. Circuit training was found to be an efficient means of providing all-over training. They ran 30-40 classes a week with up to 50 people per session. To keep people active they created various incentives such as a 100 circuit club or similar. These programmes mixed fitness, lifestyle and health and used all his previous experience.
11:08 In 1986, Bruce studied for a full-time Diploma in Education, ran the Centre and participated in the Avon Descent. At this time the Director of the Guild Centre left. Bruce applied for the job but was unsuccessful. Bruce concentrated on running the fitness centre around good core values, applying sports science in its purest form and allowing the centre to develop. He oversaw the Recreate programme and was able to double the programme three years in a row. First years were targeted with a smorgasbord of activities. Customer service was key.
16:00 Bruce saw it as a priority to get women involved. In 1986/87 it was male dominated. They started an aerobics programme but developed a culture that wasn’t about wearing cool gym gear. For some years there was a women’s only centre to encourage women to join. Once they had more women members, it became mixed again. The women tended to dominate the fitness classes and the men the gym.
20:20 When Bruce travelled, he would try and attend a conference to maximise his opportunities and his knowledge. In 1990, his boss left and he was employed as Director of Guild Sports. He became involved in the national body - the Australian National Sports Federation. This was the era of the Dawkins Report where tertiary institutions also became universities. Bruce attended a workshop that discussed the merger. It was a stalemate until the Western Australians instituted some sports games. Once everyone had joined in, progress was made! Bruce was on the inaugural board for a couple of years. They ran the first summer version of the Australian University Games. In 1993, the summer and winter games merged into the one event. In 1992, Bruce attended a Wellness Conference in Wisconsin. In 1993, a university team was sent to compete in Brisbane; in 1994 to Wollongong and in 1995 to Darwin. Each area of Australia was formed into a state body. In WA it became Tertiary Sport WA. UWA students often won so they decided to take the programme out to the different universities.
28:29 Voluntary student fees started to be talked about in 1994/1995. In 1992-1994, they decided to make the clubs less dependent on external funding. By 1994-1995, they had changed the culture. In February 1996, the State Government passed legislation to make student fees voluntary. The 1997 Guild fees would not be automatic. A team was formed to develop a proactive plan to cope with this. A review process started in April 1996 and a business planning model was developed. The end result was a separate association independent of the university. They started off with no money in the bank and 12 full-time staff that had to resign from the Guild and be reemployed by the new body.
36:42 Bruce treated all sports with a sense of equity and didn’t favour one sport over another. There were different prices for students, staff, graduates and the community. It was proved more economical to charge for some activities rather than run them for free as people put more value on it. Bruce would always look at what people did in other places. He feels WA stacked up well compared to the rest of Australia. UWA has had to work hard to provide a service rather than rest on their laurels.
44:13 The colleges were territorial and did not feel that they had to connect with the rest of the system. Bruce sat on the Convocation Committee for about 2 years. The most important thing Bruce did in this period was become involved with the Fitness Accreditation in WA. He was involved in the WA Institute of Recreation and attended the local government conferences. In the early 1990s, he also went onto the WA Sports Federation Board for nearly 8 years. He was also involved with The Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation Inc. (ACHPER).
46:58 Staff was encouraged to take on opportunities and experiences. Sports Science students did practical experience at the Centre and helped to design and implement programmes. Staff training was important. Centre staff were employed all year round whereas students only attended for 8 months a year. To keep afloat, the community was encouraged to join the Centre. Recreate programmes were designed to run twice during a semester to enable the Centre to have a second intake. It was realised that a mix of people was beneficial for the students. Information sessions were a part of the programme as well as cross country ski trips or trips to Nepal. They always offered exciting and challenging programmes.
55:51 New clients had to fill in medical information. Every staff member has a First Aid Certificate. The screening programmes were intense and the Centre is very aware of its Duty of Care. Members could be re-tested every 3 months.

Interview 3

Track 1
00:00 Introduction by Julia Wallis

Track 2
00:00 After Voluntary Student Unionism was adopted (1996-2002), the UWA Sport and Recreation Association (UWASRA) had to cope with ongoing challenges caused by fluctuations in funding. It caused a shift in philosophy and forced them to adapt, be proactive and be smarter. VSU only affected WA at this time. UWASRA separated from the Guild and became independent and entrepreneurial. They decided to get the National University Games (AUG) back to Perth in 1999 in partnership with Eventscorp. The home advantage was significant to their success in these games. Bruce went onto the National Board.
05:24 The universities in WA shared facilities and knowledge. They focused on student participation but were innovative as well and constantly planning and creating future targets. UWA won the Spirit of the Games trophy in 2002. There was a change in State Government in 2001 and it was realised that sport was an essential part of university life. The Guild was divorced from involvement in student sport and recreation so that they could concentrate on other matters.
09:54 It was decided to develop an international event. When fees were reinstituted in 2004, they were already planning this. When funding returned they enacted plans for capital funding programmes and built three facilities: the Water Sports Complex on the foreshore (2005); the water polo pool and the Tennis Centre. The Water Sports Complex included padding, sailing, underwater activities and triathlon. The UWA Tennis Centre at UWA Sports Park, Mount Claremont gave tennis a big boost. Tennis is a big part of the AUG. UWA developed the Indian Rim Asian University Games (IRAUG).
16:14 The land at Sports Park was the best location to run the AUG. In 2004, the games were held in Perth again with a proviso to run it again in 2008. Funding support was developed for a new initiative - the IRAUG in 2005, 2007 and 2009. It gave them forward momentum. The Indian Rim included India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Japan and South Africa. All the WA universities were invited. Much was learnt about protocols involved in bringing different people together on the sporting field and socially. Visitors loved UWA spaces. Sports were selected that would be attractive to this group. UWA badminton and judo clubs increased in popularity. They made some important international connections. It became obvious that UWA has an important role in Asia that it must actively pursue.
23:30 The first IRAUG in 2005 was followed by a conference of sports administrators. On the last day of the conference, national legislation was passed to make student fees voluntary. UWA had tools to cope with this new environment. The IRAUG was held again in 2007 and 2009. The national body pulled out of the region. UWA improved their performance in the AUG after 2003. They won the Spirit of the Games trophy again in 2004 and the Per Capital Trophy in 2008. World events – tsunami, SARS, the Global Financial Crisis and threats of terrorism together with staffing issues meant that the IRAUG games were discontinued after 2009.
31:16 In 2009, UWASRA worked with the University of Singapore to run a sailing programme. UWA won gold in the World University Sailing Championship in 2012. Sailing was started in a partnership relationship rather than at a club level. The sailing club is a community club and not just for students. It encourages junior members too. The clubs must remember that the students are their main focus. UWA has a partnership with Swan River sailing so they haven’t had to buy all their own boats. Sailing and golf have assisted in growing the alumni connection and neither is gender specific.
39:00 UWA has 30 different clubs. UWASRA reach more people through the Fitness Centre. Then through social sport clubs - the most popular of these is mixed netball. The Recreate programme has been running for over 20 years and has also increased participation. Students are encouraged to represent their college or faculty in national and international competition. Exchanges are very popular.
44:51 In order to keep on top of trends, Bruce uses travel to conferences interstate or overseas to investigate what others are doing. He also reads journals and magazines and has been on the board of several sports bodies. UWA is the only university that has won all 3 trophies at the AUG. CSIRO published a Megatrends document in 2010 highlighting the shift away from traditional sport. Sport is good way to communicate.
49:28 Partnerships have been very important – Australian University Sport; Eventscorp and Tertiary Sports WA. Sport tied to education has been a win-win situation. Community partnerships include the Department of Sport and Recreation; the WA Sports Federation and the WA Institute of Sport. UWASRA sits across sport, fitness, recreation and health. They are keen to develop leaders in the community. Partnerships have been made with other Australian universities and those in the Asian region, especially Singapore. Partnerships within the university include sports science, exercise and health; the Albany campus; UWA colleges and aligning themselves with the core values of the university. Another important partnership has been with the School of Indigenous Studies and helping to host the National Indigenous Tertiary Education Student Games in 2014.
55:28 Federal funding was reinstituted in 2012. It was realised that many Olympians were training at Australian universities. WA has adapted very well to the last batch of funding. Amenities fees were allowed to be charged once more. UWA got this up and operational in 2012. The database system has been updated to be part of the university structure. Data has been useful as a measurement tool of student participation, trends, changes and outcomes. Growths during that period have been outstanding in usage of the Fitness Centre and in social sports. The Fitness Centre was upgraded in 2011 and the capacity has been doubled.
01:00:31 UWA Sport & Recreation have been on the front foot to align themselves with UWA’s push for volunteering as part of their new course structure. Outdoor leadership is now huge. UWASRA are now operating at 30% funded and 70% self-earned which has been a huge shift. They have been inundated by reviews in this period. The recommendations made in 2011 can now be carried out due to the amenities funding. Employment systems have changed about 7 or 8 times which is onerous on a small business. Technology changes have been massive. Change has been the constant theme. Adaptation has given the organisation to ability to flourish.



Meakins, Bruce, “Bruce Meakins interview, 9 October, 2014, 4 November, 2014 and 28 November 2014,” UWA Historical Society: UWA Histories, accessed July 13, 2024,