Inspiring instructor faces her fears

5 February 2018

Fifteen years ago, Najma Ahmed arrived in Australia with only the most basic of swimming skills. Determined to improve her skills and conquer her fear of swimming in open water, Najma began swimming lessons – and is now an instructor who's in training for the Rottnest Swim in 2019!

“When I came to Australia 15 years ago, my swimming was more for survival purposes,” she says. “I soon realised it was a whole different ball game here!”

It took a huge amount of courage for Najma to begin swimming lessons, and even more to face her fear of open-water swimming. However, Najma believes that everyone should have swimming and survival skills, and hopes to be a role model for other people in her community.

“I believe it’s important for anyone else who has that fear of water – be it the pool or be it the ocean – to get that knowledge, because once you have that knowledge your fear somewhat subsides and you’re able to help yourself in the water,” Najma says.

“That lack of knowledge of what to do if you get into trouble is what leads to a lot of tragedy.”

Najma and Royal Life Saving WA’s Inclusion Manager Jen Mickle have made a pact to take on the Rottnest Swim in 2019. Together, the two women will embark upon this challenge of a lifetime.

“It is a challenge and the fear is real; it’s actually crippling at times,” Najma admits. “But I believe that with consistency and with help by taking a lot more classes and learning a lot more about water safety and how to carry myself in water, I’ll be able to achieve it.”

Royal Life Saving WA has been working hard in recent years to reduce drowning deaths in multicultural communities across the State. With the recent spike in drownings across Australia, and at least three of the victims coming from culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) communities, this work has never been more important.

On average over the last 5 years in WA, 36% of people who drowned were born overseas, and 58% of these were from a non-English speaking background. Of these drowning deaths, 21% were new arrivals in Western Australia who had limited water safety knowledge and swimming skills.

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