A multicultural Swim and Survive celebration

12 March 2016

104 children from 17 different cultural backgrounds are currently enjoying swimming lessons thanks to the Swim and Survive Access and Equity program, and today these children enjoyed a special Harmony Week Celebration at the Mirrabooka Senior High School pool.

Swimming instructor in the water with three girls doing a swimming lessonDrowning remains one of the leading causes of preventable death in children, and reducing childhood drowning remains a worldwide challenge. Recent data from the Royal Life Saving Society WA shows 18 children aged 5-14 years drowned in our state over the past 10 years. Over the same period there’s been a 30% increase in the number of non-fatal drowning incidents with 85 children hospitalised. 22% of these children were from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) backgrounds.

Alarmingly, across all age groups there were 128 drowning deaths involving people born overseas between July 2003 and June 2013. This represents 39% of all drowning deaths in that period. Of these 47% were from a non-English speaking country.

A key objective of Royal Life Saving is to introduce the Swim and Survive swimming and water safety program to all cultural groups across WA. Research has found that within these groups, there are alarmingly low participation levels in swimming and water safety programs, while their awareness of the importance of swimming and water safety and lifesaving skills is significantly lower than the rest of the population. This contributes to their over-representation in drowning statistics.

Royal Life Saving Society WA is currently running a nine week Swim and Survive program, in partnership with the Metropolitan Migrant Resource Centre, Mirrabooka Senior High School, and local primary and high schools who have identified children that are at risk of not learning how to swim. These children come from 17 different cultural backgrounds including Burmese (Karen), Sudanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Italian, Afghan, Chinese, Persian, Macedonian, Iranian, Somalian, Syrian, Ethiopian, Djibouti, Zimbabwean and Indian.

Two swimming instructors in the water with muticultural children doing a swimming lessonRoyal Life Saving Society WA CEO Peter Leaversuch says, “We are committed to teaching every child to Swim and Survive, and we recognise that this task is all the more important given WA’s climate and lifestyle that encourages so much activity in and on the water. The challenge we face is to ensure each new generation acquires these skills, and no-one misses out, no matter who they are or where they live."

Royal Life Saving has established The Swim and Survive Fund which utilises donations from individuals, community organisations, corporate supporters and Royal Life Saving Partner facilities across Australia, to increase access to swimming and water safety education for these at risk children.

The Royal Life Saving Swim and Survive Access and Equity Program, supported by our Principal Community Partner BHP Billiton, the Office of Multicultural Interests and  the Department of Sport and Recreation, aims to reduce barriers to participation, by providing quality swimming and water safety lessons for children experiencing social or economic disadvantage. The Program achieves this by increasing access to safe aquatic facilities, qualified instructors and by providing structured swimming and water safety education via the Swim & Survive program.

Today's event saw the children involved in the program enjoy not only their swimming lessons but also the Swim and Survive slip 'n' slide and a special BBQ lunch. The children's parents expressed their heartfelt gratitude that their children could learn such vital swimming and water safety skills that will help them participate safely in water activities in the future.

Two swimming instructors in the water with multicultural children doing a swimming lesson