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Virginia Hunt Newman International Award

Julie Zancanaro (AUS)

2017 Virginia Hunt Newman Award

Sponsored by Kiefer


Julie Zancanaro married accomplished swim coach, Deny Zancanaro, and soon became involved in his successful swim schools. A novice swimmer herself, she decided that she needed to learn to swim properly. In 1987 she began her journey and quickly proceeded to her lifeguard certification that enabled her to ultimately train teachers for the rapidly expanding Zancanaro Swim School.


Trained in developmentally based therapeutic approaches in education and health, Julie was shocked to see swim programs that forced and distressed babies and young children. She could not understand how force had any place in learning to swim, and strongly believed in child centered approaches and learning through play. In response, Julie sought guidance from the international learn to swim community and found one of Virginia Hunt Newman’s books as a refreshing change. She also found support and inspiration from Laurie Lawrence, Forbes and Ursula Carlile, Claire Timmermans, Cookie Harkin, Sharron Crowley and Rob McKay.


After publishing numerous articles on developmentally based approaches, Julie was soon being asked to speak at National and International Swimming Conferences. In 1995, she presented at her first International Conference in Melbourne. She was the Australian delegate to the World Conference in Oaxaca, 1997; a speaker in Toulouse, 1999, Wellington, 2007, and Vancouver, 2009. In 1996, Julie was an inaugural recipient of the Meritorious Service to the Teaching of Swimming in Australia Award. She was a major contributor to the two Australian accreditation courses for baby and preschool swimming. Julie is a contributing author of the first AUSTSWIM Manual for infant and Preschool Aquatics, and more recently the Swim Australia Teacher of Baby and Toddler Swimming. Since 2014, she has contributed to the first curriculum and teacher training program for indigenous communities in the Pacific, Let’s Swim.


Julie produced a video on a developmental approach to baby swimming in 1998, and has made over 100 presentations at Australian national conferences in 25 years. She has directly facilitated the accreditation of thousands of swim teachers in Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East and the Pacific.


In 2001, Deny and Julie built Hills Swimming, a customized indoor swim centre to cater to children from three months to national swimmers, focusing on the world’s best practices in early childhood aquatic education. Of the 2500 students each week, over half are under five, and many have individual learning programs to cater to Sensory Processing Disorders and other learning challenges. The team of 65 at Hills Swimming inspires her, and allows her time to assist national accrediting bodies to raise standards in early swimming. A champion of respecting rights of young children in aquatic education, Julie is continuing to campaign for stronger industry self-regulation. She delivers accreditation courses for Royal Life Saving Australia, AUSTSWIM and Swim Australia, and has always remained bipartisan. Sitting on national committees and working groups across the industry helps achieve the best outcome for the children they serve.


In 2016, Julie was an inaugural inductee into the Australian Swim School Hall of Fame for contribution to swimming education. She is currently on the Pedagogy Committee of the Australian Swim School Association and has recently been appointed to the Board of Advisors of the International Swim School Association.

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