Diana Papenfus

young aboriginal girl in Warburton with visiting swimming instructor Diana Papenfus 

Swim instructor Diana Papenfus recently spent time in Warburton, one of WA’s remote aboriginal communities, delivering a VacSwim program to the local kids (and some of the adults too!). With a background in natural history and nature conservation, the remote location was no obstacle for Diana. “One of my areas of interest is arid zone natural history, and I have a job as a naturalist tour guide. I go out and about in these remote places and so know these areas.”

Diana has been teaching swimming for many years and is an avid supporter of the VacSwim program. “I’ve always been a swimmer and I’ve always loved the water. I came across VacSwim…and I thought it was an excellent thing, so I decided to join up about ten years ago and actually contribute to teaching swimming because it was such a good thing. I didn’t know it was actually going to become part of my career, at the time I was just doing it for giving back to the community.”

Diana has always been interested in Aboriginal culture, art, and their way of viewing the bush, so when the opportunity to teach swimming to the Warburton community came about, she jumped at the chance. “I’ve always been committed to trying to empower indigenous Australians to be the best they can be. I’ve always wanted to work out on community. I have worked remotely, but not on community. I worked, in another life, as a nurse in Alice Springs, so I worked with Aboriginal people that way.”

Swimming instructor Diana Papenfus with two of her Warburton VacSwim students

“The community of people there, at Warburton, who embraced me with friendship from the get-go, that was incredibly special.”

Before heading to Warburton, Diana attended Aboriginal Cultural Awareness training with the inclusion team at Royal Life Saving WA. “That was about just accepting our differences and being aware of the different priorities and interests and ways of living within these various communities. Royal Life Saving WA and VacSwim were very conscious that they wanted to ensure I had that background and training, so I’d be prepared when I went out to an Aboriginal community. Whether it was useful specific to Warburton I’m not sure, because each and every community is different, but that’s what it prepared me for, the differences.”

VacSwim teacher Diana Papenfus with students at the Warburton swimming poolDiana remembers many highlights during her experience. “The cheerfulness of the children, the ability of the children to follow through and follow the instructions and do good swimming, that was really impressive. Another one was living in the elemental heat of Warburton, in the middle of summer in the desert and just experiencing that heat and desolation – because you’re in the Gibson desert – it was really a unique experience. It was fascinating.”

“I might have been able to give a little bit, but I got a hell of a lot back, so I am very grateful for the experience.”

Diana says she would definitely do it again. “I’ll fight anybody for that job, it’s just excellent. I hope to think that [Warburton Swimming Pool manager] Steve and I achieved something with teaching, but for me, personally, it was an excellent experience. I don’t know if it was quite the reason why I went, but I did have a very, very positive experience. I’m hoping to be able to do more community work, teaching in communities. To get more kids swimming would be great. More of the older kids, we need to get the older kids in.”

Diana’s advice to anyone considering becoming a swimming instructor is simple. “Don’t hesitate, just don’t hesitate. There’s swimming to be taught all over Australia and the world. You don’t have to teach them to become an Olympian, as long as they’re confident and safe in the water and if anything was compromising around them, they would know how to save themselves or save somebody else. I really believe in that.”

Learn more about becoming a swim instructor at the link below.

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Swimming Teacher

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If you’re searching for a job in the WA aquatic recreation industry, the Royal Life Saving Job Board can help you find a position.

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