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Byron Shire
February 27, 2021

Indigenous kids learn to swim

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Every decade half a million Australian children leave primary school unable to swim, with drowning figures higher in Aboriginal communities.

The Office of Communities, Sport & Recreation is partnering with north coast local councils to help change that alarming statistic with the Aboriginal Swimming Program.

The subsidised learn-to-swim lessons target Aboriginal preschoolers aged three to five years who receive eight intensive lessons in basic water skills.

‘Drowning statistics are huge for under-school-aged children but participation in swimming has declined over the last 10 years,’ said Teena Reeves, the north coast Aboriginal development officer with the Office of Communities, Sport & Recreation.

‘We also have a lower percentage of Aboriginal people taking up learn-to-swim programs than non-Aboriginal people.

‘As well as targeting towns, we also want to run learn-to-swim programs in communities such as Tabulam where there are few pools but the communities are surrounded by rivers.’

Seventeen local preschoolers in the Lismore group will complete their final learn-to-swim lesson on Thursday 22 November at the Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre (GSAC).

GSAC Manager Graham Walker said he was really pleased to be able to offer the program in Goonellabah.

‘The area surrounding GSAC has a high proportion of Indigenous people and it has been fantastic to see many families taking the time to have their children taught to swim,’ Graham said.

‘The children have really come a long way with their swimming skills over the two weeks of the program and will hopefully be more water safe and confident after completion.

‘The positive feedback from the parents may mean that we are able to offer more of these programs in the future.’

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