Water safety for culturally and linguistically diverse communities: 'Swim for Life' Muslim Aquatic Safety and Recreation

TitleWater safety for culturally and linguistically diverse communities: 'Swim for Life' Muslim Aquatic Safety and Recreation
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsChellew, C, Jacobs, A, Scarr, JP
Conference NameWorld Conference on Drowning Prevention
Date Published09/2007
PublisherInternational Life Saving Federation
Conference LocationPorto, Portugal
Other Numbers03-40

­Context: Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Communities in Australia have been identified as ‘at-risk’ of drowning. CALD communities are one of the priority areas for action in the Australian National Water Safety Plan 2004 – 2007, and it is therefore important to develop culturally appropriate aquatic safety and recreational programs.

The Australian Muslim community was recorded as being 281,578 people in the ABS Population and Housing Census 2001. This figure will have grown in recent years with high population growth trend (40% on previous five years) and increased arrivals of Muslim refugees from parts of Africa, Central Europe and Asia.

Project: The Muslim Aquatic Recreation Project aims to:

  • Develop links between Muslim community members and groups, RLSSA and their local community aquatic facilities
  • Provide targeted community members with skills and qualifications to;
    • secure employment as pool lifeguards and/or swimming teachers
    • influence community activities, including those conducted by schools
    • act as advocates for safe participation and enjoyment of aquatic recreation
  • Increase use of local aquatic facilities by all community members
  • Improve wider community knowledge and understanding of water safety, drowning prevention and aquatic recreation
  • Assist aquatic facilities to provide community friendly facilities that met the needs of the Muslim community

The key concepts of this community development model are:

  • Community EngagementThis area of the plan aims to connect members of the target population in this case the Muslim population with the project activities.
    • Community Project Steering Committees
    • Focus groups, questionnaires and community forums
    • National Reference Group
  • Training and EmploymentTraining and employment strategies and activities are designed to develop more sustainable links between the Muslim community and the local aquatic facilities. These links include providing training and employment opportunities for members of the Muslim community, community education and the provision of specific development activities for existing workers in the industry.
  • Community ParticipationPrograms focus on skill and knowledge development in the areas of swimming, water safety and lifesaving. Recreational activities provide opportunities for more relaxed involvement by community members. This includes strategies to encourage the use of the aquatic facility for family activities, relaxation and fitness. Community events provide larger opportunities for the community or representatives of the community to use the facility. This element of the plan will utilise the Royal Life Saving Active Family Fun Day concept to promote the aquatic recreation facility and engage large numbers of community members.


  • Three Muslim community development officers were employed and conducted a range of activities including community engagement for the purpose of building trust and identifying key issues
  • Some of the Muslim CDO’s were trained so that they are able to deliver important water safety education programs to their local community.
  • Focus group research was conducted and community recreation groups were formed to gain information about views and experiences of the Muslim Community and Aquatic and Recreation Industry.
  • A Scholarship Program was established to provide employment awareness and vocational training that lead to an increased number of Muslims being employed within the Australian Aquatic and Recreation Industry.
  • Community events including Active Family Fun Days were held to encourage healthy, active, and fun participation of families in aquatic activities. Features of the day include free entry, activities and resuscitation demonstrations, and halal barbecues.
  • Cultural awareness and conflict resolution workshops for aquatic centres’ management and staff including lifeguards were developed and presented to promote cultural diversity and understanding.

Discussion: The program has, and continues to establish a successful collaborative community model and generates research that will be used to address water safety, aquatic recreation and employment issues in all CALD communities.

In order to conduct a program with CALD communities, long term goals and strategies combined with flexibility in programs and services is needed – discovering what these communities ‘want’ rather than only providing what we offer.

Learning Outcomes
  • Outline an approach to community development in a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Community.
  • Outline the strategies used to reach the Muslim community in NSW.
  • Outline key learnings from the implemented project.


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