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AUSTSWIM completes swimming and water safety project in Fiji

AUSTSWIM completes swimming and water safety project in Fiji
March 19, 2019

AUSTSWIM has revealed details of a two-week initiative that has given 80 Fijian children aged between four and 12 years critical swimming and water safety lessons free of charge.

In a nation that holds one of the highest drowning rates in the world, the inaugural program saw three lecturers from the University of South Australia - Dr Bec Neill, Dr Alison Wrench and Alexandra Diamond – accompany 11 AUSTSWIM qualified undergraduate Teachers of Swimming and Water Safety from the University to a rural coastal community to deliver the program.

Named the ‘Kushal Lachman Gounder Memorial Swimming and Water Safety Project’, in remembrance of a young local boy who had drowned in 2016, the visiting Australians aimed to start help bridging the gap in a country where the majority of youth aren’t learning to swim.

Volunteer parents and teachers from the local kindergarten, school and college assisted the AUSTSWIM trained undergraduates as they ran 10 one-hour swimming and water safety lessons on weekday mornings, focusing on swimming skills, recognising dangers, and rescues.

Dr. Neill and Diamond also provided swimming expertise, allowing them to make an impact in the water themselves.

Children brought a range of existing skills to the lessons and were therefore grouped according to ability, with the same Teacher of Swimming and Water Safety each lesson to help build valuable trust.

Dr Neill, Dr Wrench and Diamond successfully applied to the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan (which aims to “deepen Australia’s people-to-people and institutional relationships with the Indo-Pacific region), to fund the 2018 program within an undergraduate tour.

The inspired Australian party received additional support from AUSTSWIM, who provided Teachers of Swimming and Water Safety on the trip access to two free online training modules.

Diamond, who was born in Fiji, supplied invaluable familiarity with native members, as did Dr Neill, who had recently worked with Diamond on a research project in the community just three years prior. The importance of the work was not lost on Diamond, who personally knows the struggle the nation has with water safety.​

She explained “I was born in Fiji, so I know it quite well, and I have an emotional connection to the place.

“We knew that some of our undergraduate teachers were also AUSTWIM-qualified swimming instructors, and we thought it would be wonderful to get some over to Fiji to teach a short swimming program in the school holidays.

“The particular community we chose, Bec and I already knew the families, they trusted us, we knew where they lived, and what their challenges would be with attending lessons.

“The community is by the sea, and although many people can’t swim, they go fishing, and if they fall off a boat, they can die.

“Drowning is common all over Fiji, people encounter the water through island life, so there are chances of having trouble in the water.

“Because parents can’t swim, they can’t teach their kids how to swim, and it has gone down through the generations, a lack being able to swim.

“Our students have these skills, and they are needed in these Fijian communities,” Diamond said.

Problem-solving and culturally appropriate methods of teaching were a focus for the Teachers of Swimming and Water Safety on the trip, due to the unique challenges the Fijian way of life posed to Australian swim teaching.

Diamond added “we were trying out a model for swim teaching that was reproducible in similar environments.

“Most people can’t afford to go to a pool, or there are none nearby, teaching in a natural environment was more culturally relevant.

​“We used whatever was available, such as discarded plastic bottles to teach rescues.

“Also, a lot of the women wear saris, so you could throw a sari out to do a rescue, the focus was on using cultural and place-based materials and getting kids to think, ‘what could we use’.”

The team received assistance from Fiji Surf and the Fijian Lifeguard service, who provided loans and equipment, lifeguards and knowledge of the local water systems and conditions.

Locals responded extremely positively to the initiative, according to a Fijian kindergarten teacher and volunteer instructor, Neha Ram.

Ram advised “we have been blessed with this beneficial program.

“The children have been well supervised and learned essential skills, recorded on a certificate for each child.

“I have learned a lot myself too.”

Overall, the program was an overwhelming success in its debut year, and plans are in motion to seek funding from the New Colombo Plan and renew the project for 2020 and further years.

Diamond concluded “it was fantastic because it was so wanted by the community.

“Our undergraduates learnt a lot about teaching swimming in cultures and places with children whose first language was not English.

“So much of that can be used again, in teaching in Australia.”

Contributed by Michael Di Petta/AUSTSWIM

Image courtesy of AUSTSWIM.

Related Articles

12th October 2018 - Australasian Leisure Management recognises AUSTSWIM as top national organisation in Communication and Marketing Awards

31st August 2018 - AUSTSWIM and Swimming New Zealand agree partnership aimed at providing single training qualification

30th July 2018 - AUSTSWIM slams forceful swim teaching techniques

11th July 2018 - AUSTSWIM announces new Chief Executive

17th December 2017 - Complacency surrounding Asian drowning epidemic also impacts Australia

27th September 2017 - AUSTSWIM launches Water Watcher Pledge

24th December 2014 - UN report shows drowning claims over 40 people every hour in ‘needless loss of life’

1st July 2014 - Malaysia to host World Conference on Drowning Prevention 2015

2nd April 2008 - Drowning biggest killer of Asian children

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