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Afghan refugees taught swimming and water safety

4 February 20220 comments

Newly arrived Afghan refugees are learning how to be safe around water as they begin their new lives in Australia.

Refugee and migrant settlement agency AMES Australia in partnership with Life Saving Victoria and the Melbourne City Baths are running one day water safety and swimming programs for the refugees.

The Afghan are living in temporary accommodation close to the CBD, as they set out on their settlement journeys in Victoria.

Many of the refugees were among thousands airlifted out of Kabul amid dramatic scenes last August following the Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan.

About a hundred Afghans, about half of them children, have signed up for the sessions at Melbourne’s historic City Baths.

AMES Australia CEO Cath Scarth said the water safety program was filling an obvious need.

“With summer here and our newly arrived Afghan clients beginning to explore their new environs, it’s important that aware of the dangers beaches and other waterways present,” Ms Scarth said.

There were 276 drownings in Australia last year and a ten year study of drownings up to 2016 showed 27 per cent of victims were migrants.

Afghan refugee and program coordinator Jalal Ahmadzai said many of the newly arrived Afghans did not know how to swim.

“In Australia the water is everywhere and swimming and enjoying the beach is a very Aussie thing to do. So we designed the program to give people the basic safety knowledge they need to enjoy the water.” Mr Ahmadzai said.

“The program includes a water safety presentation, a tour of the pool facility which is over 160 years old followed by activities inside the pool for parents and children,” he said.

“It has been an extremely fun and entertaining program and we are expecting to run more sessions into the future.” Mr Ahmadzai said.

Taking the sensitivity of the Afghan culture into consideration, the program has reserve sessions for female clients only in which they will be monitored by female lifeguards and instructed by female instructors.

Life Saving Victoria instructor Michael Masseni said the Learn To Swim program has seen the group learning vital water safety skills and the essentials of swimming.

“Many recently arrived people in Australia were not able to learn aquatic safety skills in their country of birth due to them growing up in landlocked countries or areas involved in economic or political uncertainty,” Mr Masseni said

“Greater CALD community participation in aquatic activities in Victoria is essential, as water safety knowledge and learning how to swim are lifelong skills that can prevent drowning, especially for people who might have less water literacy,” he said.