A group of newly arrived young people from Syria and Iraq learned how to keep themselves and their friends safe in the Australian surf on a recent outing to Manly Beach.
With children and migrants over-represented in the summer’s drowning statistics, SSI and NSW Refugee Health Service collaborated with Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguard Association to run Oceans Without Borders — a one-day water awareness program to help close to 37 young people from refugee backgrounds learn how to safely enjoy the beach.
Beginning the day in Fairfield, the group travelled to Circular Quay where many saw Sydney Harbour for the first time on the ferry to Manly Life Saving Club. With Surf Educate Australia, the young people learned how to catch a wave, have fun and be confident in the water.
For many participants, this was also their first time experiencing the beach in Australia.
"This is my first time swimming in the ocean, and it’s a good feeling," said 16-year-old Frans, from Iraq.
“It’s good exercise, and it’s good to learn these skills. We’ll come back, and bring our friends — I’d like to try surfing."
SSI’s Community Engagement Manager Trina Soulos said it was a great opportunity to introduce a significant part of Australian culture to young people who had recently arrived in the community.
“There have been a number of drownings of newly arrived migrants in recent years so it is important that they become familiar with water safety,” she said.
“It’s also a marvellous occasion for inclusion, giving young people the chance to participate in activities that would be unfamiliar to them.”
She said many of the participants studied at the Fairfield High School Intensive English Centre and she anticipated they would pass on what they learned to their classmates.
Oceans Without Borders follows on from SSI’s successful Surfing Without Borders initiative, which uses surfing to help people seeking asylum to overcome social barriers and develop new community connections.