Swimming lessons for those from a land with little water

Hundreds of Ipswich adults and children – with little or no swimming experience – now have potentially life-saving skills thanks to an intensive summer program.
Ipswich City Council funded the program to provide free swimming lessons for the culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) community in collaboration with Just Sports N Fitness at the Goodna Aquatic Centre and Community Hubs Ipswich.

Many members of the CALD community cannot swim, a vital skill in Queensland’s lifestyle. It was local mothers who raised the issue and asked for the lessons for both adults and children.

Fernbrooke Community Hub leader Priscilla Deng said swimming was one of the biggest worries for CALD families, with the drowning of a young adult in December 2016 and a close call for a teenager in a pool in December 2017.

“I don’t want it to happen again, I don’t want to have another December where someone drowns. That gave me the courage to do something,” she said. 

Priscilla said they were expecting up to 20 children at the first class before Christmas – but more than 40 turned up. The next day had about 60 and the same all the way to the last day with 74.

A second round of lessons in January started with 60 children on the first day – but by the second day there were 89.

“The numbers show the motivation,” Priscilla said.

“The adults said when the kids found out about it, they would never let you sit down – ‘Can we go! Can we go! It has started now!’ – the parents were pressured by the kids.” 

“It is important for families to understand water is all around us. The moment you give them those skills, they will be okay wherever they are. This is an introduction for children not to be afraid, and also for parents to consider this is something they need to do and give the child lessons.”

Priscilla said some of the adults taking part in the free lessons used to swim 30 years ago, but lived in dry places where creeks only ran during dangrous floods. Others who were born in camps had never swum.

“These people who stopped swimming and lived in a dry place were able to catch up. After two sessions there were big improvements, by the third session they had their skills and they said they felt young again, just like the age they were when they last did swimming,” she said.

I find it a lot easier having them all together. Here there are the kids they know, which makes it easier.

My daughter was doing upright floating. It’s really good because she can use that skill in the ocean.

It’s an amazing experience. It’s life changing for them. With the affordability of a big family, it would be hard for families to do swimming lessons.

Martha – Five children aged 1 – 10

My brother-in-law drowned in Aqua Lakes so this is close to my family. My kids need to be used to water and learn safety.

It’s a brilliant program, it’s water safety, getting confidence and also it has a social element. They come together and enjoy themselves.

One of my kids used to be scared getting into the water but here they are jumping in independently after only two or three lessons.

Abraham – Five children aged 2 – 10

Ipswich public pools – all have learn to swim programs:

Bundamba Swim Centre
Brisbane Road, Bundamba
3282 2801

Georgie Conway Leichhardt Community Swim Centre
Toongarra Road, Leichhardt
3281 8743

Goodna Aquatic Centre
Brisbane Terrace, Goodna
3381 8240

Rosewood Aquatic Centre
Mill Street, Rosewood
5464 1246

Public lagoon:

Orion Lagoon
Southern Cross Circuit, Springfield Central
Lifeguards on duty 5am to 9pm (until 30 April)

If you’re looking to beat the summer heat I would encourage people to use local Council pools.

Never go into stormwater drains, and avoid waterways if you have an open wound or infection.

Avoid activities such as swimming, fishing and kayaking in open waterways for at least one day after heavy rain.

And look for indicators of pollution such as discoloured or strong-smelling water, and floating litter, scum or debris.

Always look for posted warning signs and follow the advice.

Andrew Antoniolli


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