what we do

Our swimming academy is inclusive because we believe in giving everyone access to the same services. We work hard to provide aquatic education opportunities for student with a disability through our Heroes Disability Swim Program subsidised by our Mainstream Learn-To-Swim lessons. Our disability students learn vital water safety skills alongside our mainstream students, using an individual and holistic approach that engages and encourages relaxation, fun and most of all, how to be safer in the water.

Little Heroes Swim Academy was founded in 2012 with a passion to provide aquatic safety education and swimming skills to everyone in the community. Not long after, we were joined by Barney Quinlan who became part of the Little Heroes’ team as our Ocean Water Co-ordinator. Barney’s Surfsquad philosophy fit perfectly with Little Heroes, and his expertise at the beach added a valuable extra dimension to the organisation. In 2017, Barney’s Surfsquad evolved into what we now term OCEANthrive.

We teach more than just swimming strokes. Little Heroes provides life skills and an understanding of the water, from bathtub to pool to beach. We want everyone to enjoy being safer in and around water and we are able to tailor make programs for individuals, small groups and schools in a pool or at the beach, and roll out our existing programs for other organisations.

Little Heroes offers much more than your regular swim school. We see ourselves as part of a community, with our staff, our students and their families. This is what makes swimming for us, and with us, very rewarding.

include. thrive. survive.

the heroes team

With a combined 45+ years of experience teaching children across Sydney, the founders of Little Heroes Swim Academy decided to do things differently. Actively involved in our program from the water to the board room, Tracey and Chris will never lose sight of why. As Directors they hope to set a course that many, across all of Australia, can follow.

Inclusion and kids with disabilities are our passion. Little Heroes exists because of them.

tracey ayton

co-founder and executive officer

Over her 30+ years in the Learn-To-Swim industry, Tracey has experience in every role you can think of. Teacher, trainer, coach, manager, and sometimes therapist – she has excelled in them all. Throughout this time drowning prevention has always been a focus, from her award-winning baby program through to the current curriculum at Little Heroes.

Tracey is currently a presenter of the Swim Australia Teacher of Swimming, Infants and Toddlers and Learners with a Disability courses. She is also a member of the SwimSAFER taskforce with Swim Australia that’s sole focus is drowning prevention in the under 5’s age group. A regular conference presenter at State, National and International levels, Tracey is a highly sought after and respected voice in the Learn-To-Swim industry.

chris liu

co-founder and operating officer

After falling into swim teaching almost 20 years ago, Chris has never wanted to leave. A belief that lessons needed to be fun and practical to produce a SAFER, more relaxed swimmer has informed his view for Heroes.

A creative and practical mind away from the pool, you won’t ever find him far from his laptop. Traces of his work behind-the-scenes are everywhere within Heroes and for the most part, Chris prefers it that way. Like Tracey, the pool is where he is most at home.

pete dunne

senior mentor and ocean-water co-ordinator

An avid ocean swimmer, Pete has been with Little Heroes since inception. Initially, tirelessly volunteering his time, tremendous heart and many varied talents in whatever way the organisation needed.

An amazing mentor of mainstream students and children with a disability, Pete looks after the water at Heroes House ensuring students and their families have only the cleanest, most pristine conditions to thrive in.

A jack of all trades, Pete is an invaluable member of LHSA.


Bruce “Hoppo” Hopkins
Head Lifeguard for Waverley Council

Bruce Hopkins has been a mainstay of Eastern Suburbs beaches for the past 30 years. After being made Head Lifeguard for Waverley Council back in 2000, Hoppo was awarded Australian Lifeguard of the Year in 2006. With the success of Channel 10’s “Bondi Rescue”, he is also now a familiar face to millions around the globe.

Global recognition aside, at the heart of what Bruce does is a passion for the ocean and helping those in need. Bruce’s support has been instrumental in Surfsquad (and now OCEANthrive’s) presence down on Bondi Beach since 2006 and now through his role with Little Heroes, advocates the need for inclusive ocean water education programs. Bruce recognises the importance of a base set of skills for those wanting to enter the ocean, both independently or assisted and just as crucially, the right people to deliver the programs and teach these skills.

Little Heroes is grateful for the support and flexibility granted to us to run open water programs down at the beach.

Elka Whalan
Dual-Olympian, Media Personality and Force of Nature

With her vibrant personality & positive attitude Elka Whalan (nee Graham) has enjoyed a successful media career after representing Australia as a dual Olympian in the pool and multiple medalist.

An engaging MC and motivational speaker, Elka talks to companies, clubs, schools and teams with her “Be a first rate you not a second rate someone else” inspiring speeches. With 3 young children, Elka is now seen on mother forums, writing for popular parent websites & encouraging women to embrace all aspects of motherhood.

We are so honoured to have Elka as an Ambassador. Her connection to the water and belief in what our program delivers to our students will only strengthen our resolve in the fight for drowning prevention.

media & awards

March 2023


We were lucky enough to have a light shone on Tracey and our program by The Project. The piece was able to showcase a few of our own Little Heroes in Madi, Kate and Zac to the nation!

August 2018


At this year’s Australian Swim School Association’s Gala Awards, Little Heroes Swim Academy was inducted into the ASSA Hall of Fame, in recognition of the work we do. Co-Founders Tracey Ayton and Chris Liu were on hand to accept the great honour on behalf of the amazing Heroes team and our inspirational students. To our team of big heroes, our organisation is only as good as the service you deliver with heart and mind – this is your award for making Little Heroes what we are.

The night was a truly humbling experience in a room full of peers, pioneers and legends. Congratulations to all award winners, fellow Hall of Fame inductees Terry Gulliver and Claire Tillermanns, Legend inductee John Bainbridge and to ASSA on bringing such minds together, collaborating to push our industry forward.


October 2017


“We all know her — the busy woman who finds time for more. We’re celebrating the extraordinary voluntary work, done by ordinary women, in the ABC’s new series Women’s Work”