A NEW initiative by the Office of Communities, Sport & Recreation (OCSR), in partnership with North Coast local councils is promoting free learn-to-swim classes to help save young Aboriginal lives.
Every decade half a million Australian children leave primary school unable to swim, with drowning figures higher in Aboriginal communities.
The Aboriginal Swimming Program will target pre-schoolers aged three to five, who receive eight intensive lessons in basic water skills.
"Drowning statistics are huge for under school-aged children but participation in swimming has declined over the last ten years," said Teena Reeves, the North Coast Aboriginal Development Officer with the OCSR.
"We also have a lower percentage of Aboriginal people taking up learn-to-swim programs than non-Aboriginal people.
"As well as targeting towns, we also want to run learn-to-swim programs in communities such as Tabulam where there are few pools but the communities are surrounded by rivers."
Seventeen local pre-schoolers in the Lismore group will complete their final learn to swim lesson on Thursday, November 22, at the Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre (GSAC).
GSAC Manager Graham Walker said he was pleased to be able to offer the program.
"The area surrounding GSAC has a high proportion of indigenous people and it has been fantastic to see many families taking the time to have their children taught to swim," Graham said.