The Swim for Refugees Project first came about after hearing from some lovely friends of ours about their experiences living in Perth as new members of the community. Loving to fish, but doing so in fear of a wave washing them into the open water; spending their newfound freedom lounging on the sand at Cottesloe Beach, but not having the skills to do more than splash in the shallow waters.
Many people who come to WA seeking shelter and refuge come from places where they’ve never had the opportunity to learn to swim. We couldn’t think of a better way to help welcome them to Perth, get involved with Western Australian culture and our community, and form the critical lifesaving skills of swimming to be able to join in our lifestyle safely, and without fear.
On September 17th 2016, the first Swim for Refugees Program was run. Created by UWA Students For Refugees, the programme provided free swimming lessons for refugees ranging from children to adults. The first day, we had fifteen volunteers, but only seven people learning to swim. By the end of the first run of the program, we had over 30 students coming every week to learn to swim.
Five years later in 2021, we are a still entirely volunteer run community organisation. We’ve taught over 500 people how to swim, and engaged over 150 volunteers.
We run two 8-10 week seasons each year: March to May, and October-December.
On Saturdays we offer free classes for men and children from 12:30-1:15pm, and Women Only classes from 1:30pm-2:15pm.
We also run an Activity Centre with free pancakes and tea and coffees to share food and fun with our community, and care for kids while Mum and Dad swim.
Most importantly, we haven’t just taught hundreds of people to swim, with many of our families returning every year, we’ve built a strong community of people from all over Perth and the world.
We welcome you to come and join us.
– Swim for Refugees Founder and Director, Sophie Stewart.