Advance Diversity Services (ADS) has been making waves with this year’s swimming program, offered in partnership with Royal Life Saving Society NSW (RLSS) and Hurstville Aquatic Leisure Centre. Australia is a country surrounded by water, with beautiful beaches and waterways.  Being able to swim is an important life skill that reduces the risk of drowning.

Tragically the Royal Life Saving Society summer drowning toll recorded 99 drowning deaths across Australia between 1 December 2023 and 29 February 2024.

Many newcomers to Australia do not know how to swim and swimming lessons are not always easily accessible.  Recognising this need, Ms Ronnie Wang, Community Services Officer with ADS’s Settlement and Community Service Program, helped organise two free 10-week learn-to-swim programs for 20 beginners from ADS’ multicultural communities. 

Each week, two groups of participants, many of whom had never swum before, grew to overcome their fear of the water through learning basic skills such as floating, kicking and breathing techniques. They also gained confidence in the water, learning about water safety and survival skills.

“I was scared of water before, even walking in the water. I could only go into water that was no deeper than my knees. But now I can even swim with a swim ring. At least I learnt not to drown in the water. The swimming class is so good and I hope I can continue to join it.”

– Mei

The swimming program proved that despite varying levels of English proficiency, language is no barrier to learning new skills. The swimming instructors used simple communication, clear gestures and body language to demonstrate moves and ensure that everyone felt supported and was able to learn.

“The instructor is very patient and experienced. Our English is not good, but we still could understand the instructors through their body language.”

– Lily

Participants diving in and enjoying ADS’s learn-to-swim program.

Building a sense of community and friendship amongst participants was another inspiring aspect of the program. Diverse individuals came together to celebrate their achievements and encourage one another. One participant, Jenny, had lived in Hurstville for nearly two decades before discovering the learn-to-swim program. Joining not only gave her the opportunity to learn a new life skill, but also a sense of belonging to a new community.

Positive feedback from the Hurstville cohort highlighted the transformative impact of the program. Many participants were thrilled to have learnt new skills and feel confidence in and around water.

“I only know doggy paddling before and never had any instructor to teach me how to swim. With the class, the instructor taught us the right skills of swimming and I can do freestyle and backstroke. My friends are so jealous that I could attend the program and they want to join in future.”

– Chen

Ms Wang stated, “The learn-to-swim program goes beyond learning to float and swim. It’s about empowering individuals to overcome fear as well as building community connections.”

Ms Wang with the certificates and goggles presented to all participants by Royal Life Saving Society NSW, encouraging our budding swimmers in their future swimming pursuits.

The Royal Life Saving Society NSW’s Multicultural Swimming Program continues to make a splash in communities across New South Wales and proves that with support and the right opportunities, anyone can learn to thrive in and around the beautiful waters of Australia.