celebrating our heroes


Dawn Fraser, The Girl from Balmain

Dawn Fraser ... page one ... page two

"I didn't get it for being Miss Goody Goody," she says. "I've always been known to
be outspoken and to speak my mind and I think that's what Australian people like."

  • 1996 voted the person who best symbolizes Australia
  • 1999 named one of Australia's National Living Treasures
  • Officially recognised as one of the greatest Olympians of all time
  • 39 world records broken during her career
  • Won every 100m Freestyle competition she ever entered
  • First woman to break the one minute barrier for the 100 metre Freestyle
    at 59.6 seconds
  • World record holder for 100 metre Freestyle of 59.5 seconds which stood
    unbroken for 14 years
  • First swimmer to win a gold medal for the same event (100m Freestyle) at 3 consecutive Olympic Games: 1956 Melbourne, 1960 Rome, and 1964 Tokyo.

Who is she?

If you haven't guessed by now, it's the always-smiling Dawn Fraser.

Dawn was called a larrikin (mischievous person), a trouble maker, a non conformist. This lady was no ordinary Australian. She ran a cheese shop and a pub and was a factory hand, a pollie (politician), a member of the Cerebral Palsy Sports Association, a patron of the Wheelchair Sports Association of Victoria and president of the Australian Sports Hall of Fame.

Born on the 4th of September 1937 to a proud mum and dad, Dawn was raised with her 3 brothers and 4 sisters in a Sydney working suburb called Balmain in New South Wales, Australia.

There were many happy memories in Dawn's childhood. "I had my first game of football on this oval here with my brothers. We came down here for a school carnival and they were one short and I had very long hair at the time and my brothers ran over to the caretakers lodge and got a pair of scissors and cut my hair so that I'd look like a boy and put a pair of football boots on me and a football jumper on me and I played for the school on the wing."

Asthma takes her to swimming

As both Dawn and her father suffered from asthma, she was encourage to take up swimming to help her with her breathing. Dawn soon became a regular face around the Balmain pool. In 1948 Dawn's competitive nature inspired her cousin to enter her in the local club races. This was the beginning of an impressive career that would make Dawn a household name.

Her greatest supporter was her favourite brother Don, taking her to the pools and encouraging her to swim. Sadly he died when she was only 13. Dawn recalls, "I can remember crawling through the window where he was in the hospital. He said, 'you have a gift...keep training for me'. I s'pose those were the last words he ever spoke to me."

Not all Dawn's days were spent happily swimming

In a swimming meet, Dawn received prize money purse for defeating a well known swimming wonder Lorraine Crapp. Unaware that accepting the money was against the rules, Dawn was banned from swimming for eighteen months for this infringement.

Dawn continued to swim on her own till a swimming coach, Harry Gallagher, spotted her. Seeing the raw potential for her to be a great swimmer, he offered to train Dawn for nothing. In 1953, Dawn raced in the Australian Championships for the selection to swim in the 1954 Empire Games in Vancouver but was not selected. With determination, Dawn was not willing to accept this set back 

Dawn and her coach Harry Gallagher moved to Adelaide. There she began training at the local pool and become part of a group nicknamed, 'The Water Babes'. Dawn was extremely competitive and started training with the men in her effort to compete in the South Australian Championships in 1955-1956.

Dawn Fraser's
Swimming Records


  • 1964 Tokyo, Japan
    100m Freestyle 59.5 sec
  • 1956 Melbourne, Australia
    100m Freestyle 60.2 sec
  • 1956 Melbourne, Australia
    400m Freestyle 4.17.1 min
  • 1962 Perth, Australia
    400m Medley 4.11 min
  • 1962 Perth, Australia
    100m Freestyle 59.6 sec
  • 1962 Perth, Australia
    400m Freestyle 4.11.1 min

Commonwealth Games

  • 1958 Cardiff, Wales
    400m Freestyle 4.17.4 min
  • 1958 Cardiff, Wales
    100m Freestyle 61.4 sec

Dawn Fraser ... page one ... page two

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