In the past decade, Life Saving Victoria’s Multicultural Services department has trained around 130 lifesaving club volunteers, 260 pool lifeguards and 60 swim teachers, but it has been the aquatic centres and lifesaving clubs that have benefitted the most.
Bonbeach Life Saving Club has welcomed CALD programs for the past four seasons and president Lloyd Thomas said it had been amazing for all involved, including the local community.
“We got as much out of it as the participants and there’s nothing but positive things to say about the programs,” he said.
The club has learnt to bridge the gap for children and youth who haven’t grown up in a lifesaving culture, or even with any knowledge of the ocean, and part of that is making them feel welcome and able to treat the club like a second home.
“We keep in touch with them all year round and that’s been the biggest key for more engagement, because they don’t join up as a family like many other members do,” Mr Thomas said. “Last season, we retained the most participants as club members than we ever have.”
He said club members around the same age as the CALD participants get involved with the CALD program delivery, which also helps with building strong bonds within the club, as well as engagement.
“We had a high female participation last year in the CALD programs, which has been fantastic,” Mr Thomas said. “Last year, six females stayed on and patrolled, as well as one brother and sister.”
Most of the participants come from Afghanistan or Pakistan and many have never seen the ocean before.
“Once they get over the initial fear of the ocean, they get out there and have a ball,” Mr Thomas said. “Our other volunteers may say it’s too cold, but never our CALD participants and it’s really helped build the depth of our volunteer patrol pool.”
Edithvale LSC was the first to include CALD programs eight seasons ago and Williamstown S&LSC has also delivered the program. This season, Carrum SLSC will also be running the programs, while Bonbeach LSC’s clubhouse is rebuilt.
“The CALD programs inject a lot of energy into these clubs and there is a really good connection between CALD and non-CALD members,” David Holland, LSV’s Manager – Multicultural Services said. “Through cross-cultural sharing, children and adults at the clubs learn more about the world and each other’s cultures, while making strong connections.”
He said settlement through aquatics helps financially as qualified lifeguards can earn money, but it also provides social standing for the CALD lifeguards and lifesavers as they are looked up to and can teach water safety to vulnerable groups, encouraging others in their communities to learn to swim.
“The media likes to feature our CALD members and that promotion puts water safety on the kitchen tables of these vulnerable communities,” Mr Holland said. “That in turn helps our education programs and more people book into them as they become more aware of the issues.”
CALD communities who work or volunteer in aquatics benefit from easier settlement and healthy work. For aquatic industry employers, they benefit from a good source of workers in an otherwise high turnover employment industry, as well as attracting more people from CALD backgrounds to the pools as their interest grows.
“Pools are keen to hire more CALD workers, and more are keen to be hired,” Mr Holland said.
One of LSV’s CALD community volunteer lifesavers is Rabia (‘Emma’) Qumbri. It took years for her journey from Pakistan, via Malaysia, to eventually settle in Victoria.
Stuck in a job she hated as an admin officer sitting behind a computer eight hours a day, she went through LSV’s CALD program after a chance meeting with Mr Holland while dropping her younger siblings off at Bonbeach LSC, where they were members.
“I went on to complete LSV’s pool lifeguard course and work at Dandenong Oasis aquatic centre,” Ms Qumbri said. “David Holland then encouraged me to go through Ambulance Victoria’s program and I’m now a first responder in regional Victoria, backing up the paramedics. Now I love my job – I was lost for so long, but now I see the path.” Mr Holland said the clubs and aquatic centres who have taken on these programs have made an outstanding contribution to diversity and inclusion within lifesaving.
“As well as the CALD participants and club members benefitting, it’s also helping Life Saving Victoria to have a more inclusive organisation,” Mr Holland said. “That’s important, because we need to represent the communities we serve.”