Newman Martu kids enjoy swimming success

21 March 2019
Aboriginal children in a swimming pool

Martu kids in the Pilbara town of Newman are enjoying their new Swim and Survive program at Newman Aquatic Centre, thanks to the efforts of the Martu Education Centre (MEC) and Royal Life Saving WA to get the program off the ground.  The classes are supported by Royal Life Saving Principal Community partner BHP, as part of the Swim and Survive Access and Equity program.

Newman is suffering from a severe shortage of swimming instructors, making it difficult for local children to access swimming lessons. Research has found that Australian Aboriginal children aged 0-14 are three times more likely to drown than other Australian children in this age group. Limited water safety awareness and very low participation levels in swimming and water safety programs are major factors in these statistics, so Royal Life Saving WA is working to deliver programs and encourage participation in remote Aboriginal communities.

young aboriginal boy in a swimming pool with swim instructorThroughout the past year, we have worked closely with MEC Program Coordinator, Ginny McMaster, to put a swimming program in place for the Martu kids of Newman. The Shire of East Pilbara have come on board to support the program, with the Shire covering the cost of pool entry and lane hire at the Newman Aquatic Centre for use during lessons. Newman Aquatic’s Swim School Coordinator, Elise, has taken on the job of running the lessons with the Martu kids.

Speaking to us after the first lesson, Ginny said, “The kids loved it. We had two very reluctant swimmers, but at the end of the lesson they could leave the end of the pool edge. Elise was great with our kids, so patient and easy going.”

young aboriginal girl swimming up from bottom of swimming poolThe MEC, an initiative of the Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation supported by BHP, supports Martu families with primary school students in Years 1-6 who attend South Newman or Newman Primary Schools. The centre provides access to a range of engaging educational and social activities designed to develop students’ skills and confidence and support their participation in daily learning programs at school.

Meath Hammond, BHP Head of Corporate Affairs says “Water recreation is a big part of the Western Australian lifestyle and water safety is an important safety issue in regional and remote areas. We hope our renewed partnership will improve the accessibility of water safety programs and include more members of the community in swimming education, so that our communities become safer places to live and work.”

Learn more about the work of Royal Life Saving WA and our community partners in remote Indigenous communities at the link below.

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If you know any swimming instructors who would be interested in delivering vital swimming and water safety education to at-risk communities, please direct them to the following link.

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