Water safety engagement in multicultural communities on the rise

When it comes to teaching water safety to culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities in the classroom, at the beach and in the swimming pool, Life Saving Victoria’s Multicultural Services team continues to go from strength to strength.

The multicultural programs began back in 2007, with a dedicated focus on providing education, training and swimming lessons to people, especially youth, from multicultural backgrounds and the team has celebrated some big wins in recent years.

Over the past two years the team has overseen a 40 per cent jump in participation levels in its water safety programs, LSV Multicultural Project Manager David Holland said.

“We’ve seen the number of CALD participants taking part annually in LSV multicultural  beach, classroom and pool programs rise from 16,000 people a couple of years ago to 22,000 people this past financial year, which we’re extremely proud of, especially considering the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on activities,” he said.

“Last financial year, as a result of our programs, more than 60 people landed jobs in the aquatic industry and emergency services.”

Mr Holland said there was a positive snowballing effect to most of the program’s initiatives to date – especially with an increased awareness of water safety via LSV’s programs leading some participants to develop community-based water safety initiatives or to partner with LSV directly.

The CALD community is now more aware that water safety knowledge is needed, and we have more CALD organisational partners encouraging thousands of their community members into our suite of activities,” he said.

In addition, while employment opportunities in the aquatic industry through the program had always been popular, more CALD youth had also begun recognising the additional values of volunteering, Mr Holland said.

“This is why our lifesaving club program has been so successful. We had great success at Edithvale LSC,  and, for the past four seasons, we’ve partnered with Bonbeach LSC to train more than 50 CALD youth to become volunteer lifesavers and active club members,” he said.

“These new club members typically undergo a year or more of swimming lessons and additional practice to pass the annual, summer Surf Rescue Certificate course. Our own Ramzi Hussaini, a graduate of this program, is a mentor to these youth. As well as being the Multicultural Project Officer at LSV, Ramzi also holds that role at Bonbeach LSC, where he is also a club member.”

Mr Holland said behind some of the program’s great numbers were some equally great stories about building trust, fostering inclusion and developing leadership skills.

“The success of recent years is the culmination of 13 years of building relationships with Victoria’s CALD communities. We have worked with more than 400 partner organisations to make 150,000 participants safer around water,” he said.

“A major part of what we do is spending weeks, months and years working with people to become employable within the aquatic industry and then become role models who inspire their communities. Changes made then become generational.”

Examples of this are easy to find when looking at some of the program’s recent success stories, including celebrating 16 graduates of Somali background gaining jobs in the aquatic industry last year after completing the program. Earlier this year, LSV also joined Bonbeach LSC in welcoming Australia’s first all-Afghan lifesaving team, an all-female team in training for the Victorian Lifesaving Championships.

In addition, LSV’s training partnership with Ambulance Victoria to develop the Multicultural Employment Pathways program continues to lead to some positive outcomes not just for the participants but  also for both of the emergency services agencies.

Most recently, the team has worked on developing a series of virtual education sessions and has launched a new ‘Where are they now?’ video series, focused on highlighting some of the many great stories and achievements of those who have gone through the settlement and employment pathways program.

For more information about LSV’s multicultural team and projects, visit https://lsv.com.au/multicultural/

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