Water safety skills for new arrivals

Afghan mothers and children swimming
A small group of newly arrived Afghan mothers and their children are learning vital water safety skills in Shepparton in the lead up to summer.

In a program co-funded by Kildonan UnitingCare and the Goulburn Valley Community Fund, the swimming lessons at Aquamoves aim to ensure both mums and children better understand pool etiquette and water safety.

The importance of such a program is underlined by the fact that 39 Victorians died from drowning last financial year. Four of these were children aged under four, the highest number on record for more than decade. A further 64 near-drownings were reported.

According to Lifesaving Victoria, approximately 20 per cent of drowning deaths in Victoria involve refugees, new arrivals and international students.

Swimming lessons are a part of life for most Australian children. But migrants who originate from land-locked countries often have little exposure to beaches and water safety. Some also come from regions with great political instability, where swimming lessons were simply not a priority.

With the number of migrants to Victoria increasing every year, water safety awareness is more important than ever.

Kildonan UnitingCare chief executive officer Stella Avramopoulos said participants in their swimming program are learning potentially life-saving skills.

“Water confidence and access to swimming lessons is something many of us take for granted in Australia,” she said.

“Many new arrivals, even adults, have never learnt to swim and this can be dangerous particularly with summer and warmer weather approaching.”

Mums have been provided with culturally appropriate swimming costumes to enable them to participate and are joined by the Kildonan multicultural worker who assists with language.

“Making it as easy and comfortable as possible for the women to participate, combined with the expertise of the swimming instructors, has made the experience a really fun and positive one,” Ms Avramopoulos said.

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