Now the Buderim woman is urging other migrants to take the plunge and enrol in the free program so they can take full advantage of Sunshine Coast’s beaches.
Since migrating from the Canary Islands to be with family, Mrs Alvarez had been yearning to get in the water with her grandchildren but couldn’t as she had never learnt how to swim.
Since taking part in the program she has loved visiting Maroochydore beach with her grandchildren.
“I am very grateful for the learn to swim program which has been of great benefit to me,” Mrs Alvarez said.
“I would recommend it to any friends who can’t swim.”
More migrants like Mrs Alvarez will be able to enjoy a dip in the ocean or their local pool, thanks to three water safety programs kicking off this month with Migrant Learn to Swim and Beach Safe, Women Take the Plunge and On the Same Wave Beach Safe programs.
Sunshine Coast Council and Royal Life Saving Society Queensland have joined forces with Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) and Nambour Community Centre to run the Migrant Learn to Swim and Beach Safe Program, providing free swim and beach safety programs for migrants over the age of 10.
Community Portfolio Councillor Jenny McKay said figures from Surf Life Saving Queensland showed 40 per cent of all drownings on Queensland beaches over the past 10 years involved international tourists, refugees, migrants, or other people from culturally diverse backgrounds.
“These tragic figures illustrate it is essential to ensure every migrant who wants to, has the opportunity to learn how to swim,” Cr McKay said.
“Going to the beach or enjoying a swim in the pool is such a big part of our lifestyle here on the Sunshine Coast and everyone should have the chance to enjoy it,” Cr McKay said.
Three programs will be on offer in September:
• Starting 14 September, the 10-week Migrants Take the Plunge program will provide free swimming lessons for migrants over 10 years of age at Nambour Aquatic Centre and Caloundra Lifestyle Aquatic Centre.
• Starting 14 September, the 10-week Women Take the Plunge program will provide free swimming lessons to migrant women at Buderim’s Goodlife Community Centre.
• Beginning 28 September, Surf Life Saving Queensland will deliver its free On the Same Wave Beach Safe program which offers beach safety and awareness training for migrants.
All three programs will be offered again in February 2020.
Royal Life Saving Society Queensland (RLSSQ) provided funding to Sunshine Coast Council and partners to deliver the program.
RLSSQ executive director Paul Barry said it was a wonderful initiative.
“Australian residents who are born overseas have a higher risk of drowning than the general population, and a program aimed at these groups will not only assist people to better enjoy our great Australian lifestyle, but assist them to do so in a safe manner,” Mr Barry said.
SLSQ regional manager Sunshine Coast, Aaron Purchase said the On The Same Wave program would help save lives through education and awareness.
“Our highly-skilled surf lifesavers will guide families through a structured program, which includes a wide range of games and educational activities which are designed to slowly build their confidence in the water,” Mr Purchase said.
“We’ve seen too many heartbreaking drownings over the years involving recent migrants and international beachgoers, and this is a great opportunity to help reverse that trend,” he said.
“Thanks to support from the Sunshine Coast Council, we’ll be able to run our On The Same Wave program across eight sessions this summer, which is a fantastic result and will no doubt go a long way towards protecting beachgoers and saving lives,” Mr Purchase said.
For full details, eligibility criteria and to register, visit council’s website at www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au and click on ‘Living and community’, then ‘Community support’ and ‘Health and wellbeing programs’.