Over the last decade almost 20% of people who drowned in Victoria were born overseas, leading LSV to train and recruit lifesavers from migrant communities to reach this audience with safety messages. As part of this push, Bonbeach LSC has welcomed its second intake of CALD lifesavers over summer.
“There’s a huge percentage of Australians who were born overseas, or who have parents who were, and we’d like our lifesaving clubs to reflect that,” says Blair Morton, LSV’s Multicultural Project Coordinator.
Lifesaving is an iconic Australian way of life over summer and the multicultural programs not only lead to increased water safety knowledge and swimming ability, they also mean participants can be more socially included, make friends and win awards. The training can also lead to further education and even career prospects.
Youdon Tenzin, a 13-year-old trainee lifesaver with three sisters also involved in lifesaving, came to live in Australia two years ago from India and she admits: “I find the training really easy sometimes, but it’s also really challenging.”
Water safety is often a low or zero priority in participants’ home countries, so bridging that gap can be challenging. Often there’s no swimming ability, so before starting the lifesaving courses, those participants need to attend a year of swimming lessons funded by LSV.
Shouk Mohammade, a 17-year-old trainee lifesaver at Bonbeach LSC, was one of the participants who had swimming lessons after arriving from Afghanistan 6 years ago. He says: “When we came we didn’t know how to swim, it was a bit hard at the start, but I practised and got better. My family think it’s good I’m training to be a lifesaver.”
“Other kids and families see our graduates at the beach and water safety becomes a conversation,” says David Holland, LSV’s Manager of Multicultural Projects. “They learn about the worth of lifesaving and of learning to swim. We hope many more will follow.”
As well as the trainee lifesaver courses, LSV’s multicultural department also runs three types of water safety programs:
· Meet a Lifeguard: classroom/lecture theatre water safety incursion
· Beach Program: practical beach excursion
· Resuscitate a Mate: classroom CPR information session
There are also more formal training programs offered, such as:
· Swimming lessons for 1,400 participants a year.
· Pool Lifeguard / First Aid/ Surf Lifesaver courses for 150 participants
· Employment and volunteer positions for 50 participants
So far this financial year, the department has trained 60 participants in various courses.
As a result of welcoming migrant communities into the club, Bonbeach LSC has sourced Burkini swimwear in surf lifesaving colours for their Muslim female lifesavers, thanks to the generous donation of Ahiida Swimwear.
Leading by example in terms of providing career opportunities for participants, LSV has recently recruited Ramzi Hazara, a graduate of the programs, who has is now the department’s multicultural projects officer.
Ramzi had a treacherous ocean journey from Afghanistan to Australia, but didn’t let the traumatic experience put him off learning to swim, then learning lifesaving skills.
He put those skills to use by teaching them to others in Australia’s migrant community, as well as in Sri Lanka, as part of the Building Leaders Scholarship offered by LSV. He is now a role model in his community both in terms of the career prospects he has developed, as well as his water safety knowledge.
“We’re finding migrant communities and the role models we’ve taught in our programs are going back into their communities and the messages of swimming between the red and yellow flags at patrolled beaches is getting through,” says Blair. “There’s a trickle-down effect that gets the message out to the community more broadly through word-of-mouth and the multicultural lifesaving courses, such as the ones at Bonbeach LSC, are also helping young people from overseas backgrounds find a place in the Australian community.”
For more information on LSV’s multicultural department please visit: www.lsv.com.au/multicultural