From fear of water to champion swimmers

5 May 2016

In a nation like Australia it’s widely recognized that the ability to swim is an essential life skill. With our beautiful beaches, long stretches of inland rivers and waterways, and ready access to swimming pools the lure of the water is strong.

But for those coming to Australia from other nations, where swimming is not such a common pastime, the water can be a scary place.

Stella is a mother of four who moved to Australia from Poland as a young woman. For her the water evoked fear as she’d seen her brother drown in Poland as a child. Stella says “he was nine years old, and I can still, all these years later, see in my mind his body there in the water. I nearly drowned three times as well, twice when I was in Europe, and once at Cottesloe after we moved to Australia.”

After becoming a mother she vowed to never let her children go near the water for fear that they too would drown. But all that changed when her eldest daughter was in primary school; “Marie was in grade five and she came home one day so upset that all her friends were going to learn to swim. I wouldn’t allow her to go so she said to me “I hate you for not letting me learn swimming.” My husband intervened and said “We’re surrounded by water, the children all have to learn how to swim”.

So Stella conceded and let Marie attend swimming lessons with her friends. “I went to the pool with her and stayed near the fence. I cried looking through to make sure my daughter was still alive, I was so petrified; I didn’t want to lose my daughter.”

Her son Mitchell was in grade three, and her younger daughter Victoria was in grade one. The following year she let them go to swimming lessons too, through the vacation swimming program. While they were there Stella was approached by a woman who asked if she would like to enroll her children in the swimming club.

Stella’s children went to swimming club for five years, her four year old son Peter was too young to join, so he swam in the paddle while the others did their lessons. “Peter taught himself how to swim. He loved butterfly and taught himself that too. He was a champion at butterfly and when he was 8 years old he joined the nine year olds butterfly race and broke Neil Brooks’ record for that age group. My children completed all their swimming and lifesaving certificates, swam in the state championships and broke records, and I realized that putting them in swimming lessons was the best thing I ever did for them.”

Stella’s family own Woody’s Nursery in Port Kennedy, and gladly host our Quackers fundraising duck and merchandise box on their counter. She is a strong advocate for Royal Life Saving Society WA, and wants to ensure all children are safe in the water.

“I learned from my experience that fear should not hold you back. The best thing I could do for my children was to give them the skills they needed to fully enjoy life in Australia and be safe in the water. I wish all children could have the same opportunity.”

Royal Life Saving Society WA is determined to see all WA children learn to swim. For more information on a swimming program near you check out our Swim and Survive program.

As a parent it is vital that you have the first aid and CPR skills to act should your child need emergency care. You can find out more about our First Aid or CPR courses at the link below.