VacSwim a summer highlight for Warburton children

5 February 2021
two aboriginal children huggingDespite living in one of Australia’s most remote locations, the children of Warburton enjoyed a VacSwim program during the school holidays.

The program was held at the Warburton swimming pool over two weeks in January, with 44 children between the ages of 5 and 14 participating in the program. 37 children received swimming certificates, meeting the minimum attendance criteria of three lessons to be eligible to receive a certificate.

Pool Manager Steve Girschik says, “These VacSwim lessons would have to be the most remote delivery of swimming lessons in WA, and perhaps all of Australia, as Warburton (a remote Indigenous community in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands) is located 1600kms to the north east of Perth, about 1000kms from Kalgoorlie, 280kms from the tri-state border with NT/SA and it is about halfway between Laverton and Uluru-Ayers Rock (NT) on the Great Central Road.”

Steve has been Pool Manager at the Warburton pool for many years and knows all too well the challenges of finding instructors to deliver programs in the community. “This is the fifth year the program has been held in Warburton and, while it is a WA Education Department program, Royal Life Saving WA assists greatly in meeting the costs of transporting a swimming teacher to this remote location.”

Swimming instructor Diana Papenfus first delivered the VacSwim program in Warburton in 2019 after being recruited by Royal Life Saving WA. She enjoyed the experience so much that she has returned to the remote community each summer and is now a familiar face in town.

“It is her third time teaching the VacSwim program in Warburton as she really enjoys coming out here,” said Steve. “Diana has told me that the kids here are very quick learners, as they already spend a lot of time in the pool over summer. But if no one has ever shown you how to do backstroke, or breaststroke, or the way to safely assist someone who is in trouble in the water, then there is lots to learn.”

three Aboriginal children standing in front of a swimming pool“The kids enjoy learning with Diana as she is very patient and experienced. She has seen it all in her time teaching swimming so nothing seems to bother her. And the kids appreciate some structure with their school holiday days and the challenge of learning new ways to move through the water.”

The children received fruit and a pancake after completing the 10-day program, as part of the Go for 2&5 Swim for Fruit initiative. Towels from Ngaanyatjarra Health Service’s Tackling Indigenous Smoking program were also available for the kids to use after the lessons.

After the two weeks in Warburton, Diana then travelled to Blackstone, another Ngaanyatjarra Lands community (190kms east of Warburton), where she delivered four days of swimming lessons on behalf of Royal Life Saving WA. “These would be the first formal swimming lessons ever for the Blackstone kids,” said Steve.

Read more about Diana’s initial experience at Warburton at the link below:
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