Summer cultural exchange 

BEING Australians, swimming is not only part of cultural identity; it is almost part of our DNA. After all we do live on the world’s biggest island and as our European visitors love to remind us: it’s hot! For most of us, a trip to the beach or the local swimming pool is just part of summer.

So, it is mind blowing to think that there are people in the world who have never ventured into the water.

But, for many of Goulburn’s refugees that was exactly the case until last week when the Goulburn Multicultural Centre held a week-long learnto- swim class.

The program was part of the centre’s Diversity and Social Cohesion Program (DSCP) and was a big hit with children and adults alike.

One of the centre’s primary functions is to help children from migrant and refugee backgrounds to assimilate and integrate into Australian culture. Learning to swim is an important part of this.

“A large part of our culture, especially in the summer months is swimming and this program gives kids from Africa, Burma, Thailand and a few other different nationalities the chance to be safe in the pool, as a lot of them have not even so much as stepped in a bucket of water,” client services manager Charlotte Butler said.

Through community consultation, the original target of the program was to be able to take the kids down to the beach and give them an opportunity to experience the surf.

“The decision was absolutely unanimous, that as part of the kid’s school holiday program, everyone wanted to go down to the surf,” Ms Butler said.

“When you’ve never been in the surf before and experienced what it’s like to not touch the bottom or to deal with currents and waves and things like that - you can’t explain it to someone just sitting on the sand - so we said, ‘Alright, if you can come and do the swimming program, and be able to swim 25 metres, then you can go down to the surf and swim in the ocean’- which is the ultimate goal.

“I think about three of the guys will be able to do it within the next week or two, and by the Spring holidays if they continue to practice by taking themselves off to the pool and doing laps on their own, we might then have a bus full! “It also gives the kids a chance to be able to muck around with their Aussie friends, and on a day like today when its 40 degrees, be able to go up to the pool and have some fun.”

The swimming program usually runs for a period of one week, but due to its ongoing success, the Multicultural Centre has decided to extend the program for one more week.

For more information call 4803 9042 or visit www.gmc.org.au.

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