Swimming is a big part of life in Australia and newly arrived refugees are now getting the opportunity to safely enjoy the water thanks to a new SSI partnership.
As part of SSI’s ongoing work with Sydney’s Inner West Council, new arrivals are learning how to safely spend time in Australia’s waterways and, importantly, how to share those skills with their children.
More than a dozen refugees met at Leichhardt Park Aquatic Centre on Monday for the first week of a six-week swimming program, where they'll learn to navigate pools and beaches in Australia.
SSI’s Humanitarian Settlement Program Acting Manager Katina Velkou said while this was the first cohort to take part in the swimming course, it was envisaged that the initiative would form part of an orientation to Australia for many more new arrivals.
“Learning to swim can help refugees to connect with a quintessential part of Australian life: our beaches and pools. For parents, it also ensures that they have the skills and knowledge to support their kids to enjoy the water safely,” she said.
“This initiative is a great example of how SSI’s orientation program offers a unique experience for new arrivals. We have a strong understanding of the needs of the people who come to Australia as part of the Humanitarian Settlement Program and tailor our orientation accordingly.
“We are also fortunate to have incredible partners like the Inner West Council, who work with us to support refugees to get the best start to life in Australia.”
Swimming course participants had a tour of the pool facilities, before receiving an in-depth safety briefing and embarking on swimming lessons. The launch of the program was also marked by a surprise visit from Inner West Council Mayor Darcy Byrne, who has championed the initiative.
The Inner West Council, through the new Inner West Refugee Welcome Centre, has already been actively involved in a number of SSI orientation activities, including through regular information sessions held at the Callan Park-based centre.