Edmund Rice after school program proves popular

14 September 2017

In Western Australia we are blessed to have an abundance of water locations to enjoy, and water activity is high on the agenda for recreation, especially over the warmer months. We’re also very fortunate to live in a state where water safety education is embedded in the school curriculum.two young girls in the pool with their instructor at Balga

For those born here it’s hard to believe that people arriving from overseas can get well into their primary school years, even teenage years or adulthood without ever having the opportunity to learn swimming and water safety skills.

a girl and boy holding their swim and survive packs by the pool at BalgaSadly this can have tragic consequences, and during the 2015-16 financial year 34% of people who drowned in WA were born overseas. Of these, half were from non-English speaking backgrounds, with the majority born in Asian countries.

In order to address this Royal Life Saving Society WA, with funding from the Office of Multicultural Interests, has partnered with the Edmund Rice Centre to enable 20 young people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) backgrounds to take part in swimming lessons at Leisurepark Balga throughout this term.

The Edmund Rice Centre engages with CaLD communities to encourage them to take part in sport and recreation activities, and provides opportunities to break down the barriers to participation. The program at Balga this term is the first time Royal Life Saving Society WA has partnered with Edmund Rice and the program has been a huge success.

The after school swimming program catered for those from beginners to stage 5, and has been conducted every Tuesday afternoon throughout Term Three. The classes filled up very quickly, and Royal Life Saving is already planning a second program to be conducted next term in order to cater for demand.Three boys getting into the pool with kickboards as their instructor assists

Each participant received a Swim and Survive pack, which includes a towel, goggles and a cap to ensure students had all they need to take part. Many of the children involved faced barriers to participation, including financial constraints and difficulty travelling to and from the pool, and had never taken part in swimming and water safety classes before.

Children who’ve been involved in the program this term come from a range of countries and cultural backgrounds including Arabian, Suria, Pakistan, Thailand, Iraq and Africa. They have thoroughly enjoyed the program and have made huge improvements in their swimming ability and water safety awareness.

Royal Life Saving Society WA wishes to thank Leisurepark Balga for providing lane space and instructors for the program, and welcoming families into their facility, some of whom were quite nervous as they’d never been in an aquatic centre before. We’re also very grateful to Lisbeth Comissao from the Edmund Rice Centre for organizing participants and promoting the program to encourage participation, and the Office of Multicultural Interests for providing funding to make the program possible.

We look forward to seeing more children take part next term, and would encourage other aquatic centres and swim schools to approach Royal Life Saving if they are interested in running a similar program for at-risk participants in their own community.

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