“I couldn’t swim before, now I can swim very well – I love swimming as a sport and it can save a life.”
Those inspiring words spoken by Habib from Afghanistan no doubt resonate with each participant who takes part in South East Queensland’s Aqua English Project.
The Project, which has helped deliver water safety and English skills to more than 29,000 culturally and linguistically diverse individuals (CALD) over 14 years, is one of Swimming Australia’s strategic partners under its Community Swimming Grants initiative.
Using the funding, the Project has big plans to expand from their current locations in Brisbane and South East Queensland into the Gold Coast and other regional locations in Queensland where more support is needed, including Toowoomba, Southside, Northside, Western suburbs as well as Cairns. This expansion will help them to extend their outreach to another 750 participants which includes refugees, humanitarian entrants and new arrivals to Australia.
The co-founder of the project Sarah Scarce, who began as a refugee lawyer, saw that this project allowed her to connect with the community and “help in a different way”.
“We’ve recognised that swimming in Australia is culturally iconic, and it is embedded in our DNA,” she said.
“The community we have, we are trying to mix with the broader Australian community, and it helps to create a dialogue in the pool.
“The very quintessential Australian swimmer, who does his or her laps in the pool is able to see the effort that a new arrival to Australia puts in. It is a genuine interest in each other and what they are trying to do.”
Incorporating English language skills into the lesson has seen further benefits including certification, employment opportunities, as well as opportunities to engage with the broader Australian community.
Under the Move It AUS- Participation Grants Program, Swimming Australia has committed to provide diverse community groups with funding to aid their aquatic programs. The program has invested a total of almost $600,000 into 27 community grants and 11 strategic partnerships that has reached more than 7,000 participants in 84 different locations throughout Australia.