Mirrabooka Community Swim and Survive

Mirrabooka Harmony Day

From February to April 2016 a group of 104 children - aged 5 to 17 and coming from 17 different cultural groups - had the opportunity to learn to Swim and Survive; many for the very first time! The children received a 45 minute swimming lessons every Saturday morning for 7 weeks at the Mirrabooka Senior High School pool.

The Mirrabooka Community Swim and Survive program was created to target an identified high Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) population within that suburb, where 56.5% of residents identify as CaLD. The most common countries of birth for these residents are Vietnam, Burma, Iraq, Sudan, and Macedonia.

Children from CaLD backgrounds often miss out on participating in vital Swim and Survive lessons for a number of reasons, including financial hardship and a general lack of awareness about the importance of water safety.  Many come from landlocked countries where swimming is not a common pastime, so after arriving in Australia; where we have vast expanses of coastline, inland waterways and ready access to swimming pools, this lack of awareness can be deadly.

The program aimed to break down some of the key barriers to participation for local children, who’d been identified as being at risk of not learning how to swim, by encouraging their families to take part. It aimed to create a warm and welcoming swimming environment that was family friendly and cost effective.

A key element of the program was the development of a strong partnership between Mirrabooka Senior High School and Royal Life Saving Society WA, with the school not only providing use of their pool, but also now incorporating further pool lifesaving activities as part of the school swim club, and already committing to a repeat of the Community Swim and Survive program next summer.

Mirrabooka’s Head of Physical Education Mark Thompson says, “We’re blessed to have a pool here at the school but there are 58 different nationalities here which brings its own set of challenges, particularly related to students being able to be safe around the water."

"For a lot of our students, familiarity with water is something they need to develop so that they and their families can remain safe. It’s great to have Royal Life Saving on board and we look forward to having a continued relationship.”

The program has also seen an important shift in understanding within the local community, of the importance of swimming and water safety education. Many of those families who attended are now keen to take part in further Swim and Survive lessons with many parents enroling in Royal Life Saving’s “Women’s Only” lessons.

The Swim and Survive Access and Equity program is proudly supported by Principal Community Partner BHP Billiton, the Office of Multicultural Interests and the Department of Sport and Recreation.