This Term, the Boarding House partnered with the Migrant Resource Centre and the Royal Life Saving Association of Tasmania to run a four-week Aquatic Safety Program for a small group of recently arrived immigrants.
Many of the participants originated from Iran and Afghanistan, and have been settled in Tasmania for around four years. Most were primary school-aged, ranging from 6 to 12 years old, however, we did have a small group of men in the late 30s and early 40s. The aquatic program for some was their first experience of receiving formal instruction. Traditionally speaking migrants, refugees, and people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds have been overrepresented in national drowning figures and, as such, have been identified by aquatic safety authorities as a ‘high risk’ group.
Our 16 students worked with Olympian, and local swim instructor, Peter Tonkin. In the week leading up to the program, they learnt the fundamental aquatic skills they would in turn be instructing. The first session followed a week later and was both intense and fun. The participants themselves were very keen and their energy was palpable and provided a valuable panacea for the nervous energy of our students. Concerns about language barriers, cultural gaps and swimming competency were quickly overcome as the participants and the boarders connected through the joy of being in the water and the pursuit of learning how to float, tread water and then how to propel using kicking and strokes. In total, they received six hours of instruction and by the end of the eighth and final session, many were both competent and confident in the water. Even some of the men went from non-swimmers to nearly completing a freestyle lap of the pool.
The 16 boarders, Peter Tonkin, and our partnership with the Migrant Resource Centre and the Royal Life Saving Association of Tasmania enabled the participants to indulge in their yearning to safely take a dip at the beach and at their local swimming pool thanks to the skills the program has taught them. They are both a life-giving and lifesaving set of skills, and that alone is a wonderful outcome. I suspect that the learning and outcomes are not just limited to the participants. As our boarders have reflected more deeply on the initiative, some have expressed a greater appreciation of what a ‘connected and supportive community’ looks like and one has gone on to get their swimming instructor qualifications to do ‘more’. From a more personal or individualised perspective, I have no doubt that our students have benefitted. Whilst the learning for them may not be a lifesaving skill like learning to swim, it is a life-giving quality as they unearthed the power of giving self to the benefits of others.
Head of Boarding