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19 July 2021

Refugee women are off to a great 'STARTT' in the water

Swimming & Lifesaving
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Royal lifesaving NSW have been collaborating with the STARTTS organisation on a successful adult swimming program for refugees, funded by Seven Hills- Toongabbie RSL club. STARTTS is a specialist, non-profit organisation that for over 30 years has provided culturally relevant psychological treatment and support, and community interventions, to help people and communities heal the scars of torture and refugee trauma and rebuild their lives in Australia.


This past term has seen over 35 women from refugee backgrounds access swimming and water safety lessons. The program runs over a 2-5 week format and has been well received by both the participants, community leaders and teachers. Program participants were repeatedly commenting on the multiple benefits of the program such as confidence, social time, health and of course improvements in swimming, with many of the ladies having never been previously taught how to swim.


This program has been able overcome common participation barriers by meeting the needs of the women and their different backgrounds. Lessons have been conducted in a safe and culturally aware space, with female only teachers and lesson structures have been flexible to suit the needs and confidence levels of the participants. Additionally, the collaboration with STARTTS have made having interpreters and transport possible.

Many of the women in the program have expressed their wish to continue swimming and enter the aquatics industry by becoming swimming teachers or community educators.


Program Participant Feedback:

“It was very good, I can't rate it high enough. I felt comfortable and supported by the teachers. They took time to make each person feel valued and I have finished the program feeling more confident in the water. I recommend this program to anyone out there who wants to learn to swim. The swimming pool was clean and I felt safe and respected the entire time.”

Program Teacher’s Feedback:

“Over the last five weeks, we’re being able to watch the ladies go from strength to strength. Within their first 2 lessons, they went from being afraid to leave the wall or take their feet off the floor, to being comfortable with assisted floats and kicking across the pool with floatation aids. It has been wonderful to see their fear turn to joy. Seeing that they wanted to learn and help each other to learn and improve as well.”

“All ladies are now happily kicking with assistance, asking questions and the more advanced adding in arms and swimming on their back. It has been great to see the growth in everyone’s water confidence, knowing they will now be able to take their children/grandchildren into a pool and be safe whilst doing so.”


To find out more about running this program in your area, please contact our Cultural Engagement Coordinator Lauren Battaglia laurenbattaglia@royalnsw.com.au


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