Multicultural women embrace swimming skills

18 March 2021

Two multicultural women swimming in a poolAs we celebrate Harmony Week, Royal Life Saving WA continues to work hard to make swimming and water safety education accessible to all. An important aspect of this work is our provision of Women’s Only Swim and Survive classes at various locations across the metropolitan area.

Australia is a diverse nation, with almost half of Australians either born overseas themselves or with a parent who was, while more than 7.5 million people have migrated to Australia since 1945. Sadly, many of those coming to Australia from overseas lack the vital swimming and water safety skills required to fully enjoy our water-loving lifestyle, and this can have tragic consequences. Western Australian statistics show that over the past ten years 39% of drowning deaths in WA involved a person born overseas. – that’s 134 multicultural West Australians who’ve lost their lives to drowning. Of these, 61% were from a non-English speaking country.

Royal Life Saving WA understands that for some women the requirements of their culture mean that putting on bathers and swimming in a public pool is simply not possible, due to the risk of men also being present at the facility. Our Women’s Only Swim and Survive program provides swimming and water safety lessons in an environment that is appropriate for these women.

This term the program is running at four locations across Perth including, Tuesday afternoons at Cannington Leisureplex, Leisurepark Balga and The Swim School WA Wangara, who have been running the program for a number of years, while a brand-new program has also started at Riverton Leisureplex on Friday evenings. 193 women are enrolled in the Women’s Only classes across these four locations.

Royal Life Saving WA Senior Manager Education, Trent Hotchkin says this is an extremely important program. “Often swimming and water safety education is overlooked by new migrants due to barriers such as cost and availability, and for many migrant women the issue of cultural modesty is extremely important. We’re working hard to address these barriers to participation so that swimming, lifesaving and community education programs are appropriate and accessible to all Australians.”

Another important program that has continued this term is Women’s Only night swimming at Leisurepark Balga. This program, which began in Term Four 2020, sees the facility open to women only from 7 – 9pm every Saturday evening. Women can enjoy a casual swim in the 25m pool or a walk in the hydro pool safe in the knowledge that men are not allowed to attend the facility during that time.

The Women’s Only Swim and Survive program is supported by the Western Australian Department of Health.