Migrant swim program improves safety and promotes friendship
  • Wednesday 30 October 2019

When she moved to the Sunshine Coast four years ago, Jannie Lyn Malicdem quickly realised that she would be missing out on a lot of fun if she didn’t learn how to swim.

“So much revolves around the water here,’’ Ms Malicdem said.

She grew tired of sitting on the beach while her partner enjoyed the surf and, with a little prompting from him, decided it was time to learn how to swim.

Ms Malicdem is taking part in a women’s-only learn to swim program being offered as part of the Migrant Learn to Swim and Beach Safe Program which provides free swim and beach safety programs for all migrants over the age of 10.

Sunshine Coast Council is running the program in partnership with Royal Life Saving Society Queensland (RLSSQ), Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) and Nambour Community Centre.

Swim classes are offered at Caloundra Aquatic Lifestyle Centre and Nambour Aquatic Centre, with the women’s-only sessions being held at Buderim’s Goodlife Community Centre. The beach safety and awareness training take place at Mooloolaba beach.

“My swimming is getting better each lesson,” Ms Malicdem said.

“Now I can float alone and breathe underwater.

“My goal is to swim an entire length of the pool.’

Ms Malicdem said her “wonderful” teacher and the supportive environment made the classes really enjoyable.

“When you are with a group of women you feel more comfortable and you can also talk girly things and make friends – it’s very nice,” she said.

Ms Malicdem grew up in a mountainous region of the Philippines and said swimming wasn’t something her family did.

“I was scared of the water as a child,’’ she said.

“The beach awareness part of the program is very important for me as taking a dip in the pool is very different from being able to navigate the ocean safely.

“I want to be able to swim at both the pool and the beach and be able to save my life one day if I need to.”

RLSSQ manager of projects and operations Kate Forrester said RLSSQ’s 2019 National Drowning Report highlighted that people from multicultural backgrounds continued to be at higher risk of drowning.

“Costs of swimming lessons, water safety education, access to local aquatic facilities and facilities that cater for cultural requirements are often barriers to learning water safety and swimming,” Ms Forrester said.

“Nationally, the 10 year average for drownings of individuals from a multicultural background has reduced by 38 per cent with total deaths reducing from 79 in 2016-2017 to 49 in 2017-2018.

“However, data shows the proportion of females drowning is increasing, with females accounting for 22 per cent of drowning deaths in 2016-2017 and 32 per cent in 2017-2018, which highlights a need for programs specifically targeting females of a multicultural background.”

Community Portfolio Councillor Jenny McKay said the program was changing lives.

“Not only is this program helping to prevent further instances of drowning, it also helps bring people together and form real connections in their community, which can be difficult to do when you’re new to an area, learning a new language and adapting to a new culture,’’ Cr McKay said.

The suite of migrant learn-to-swim programs will be offered again in February 2020. For more information visit council’s website at www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au and click on ‘Living and community’, then ‘Community support’ and ‘Healthy Sunshine Coast’.