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5S Swim Program - 2018

More than 50 young people participated in CareSouth’s 5S program - Southern, Surf, Swim, Safety, Social – during the recent April school holidays.

The intensive water safety program, a joint initiative of CareSouth and McKeon’s Swim School to address the alarming rate of childhood drownings in Australia, provides free swimming lessons and surf safety education for up to 60 vulnerable children. The program was funded using a generous grant from Berkeley Sports Club and The Illawarra Yacht Club.

The two-day program, coordinated by CareSouth’s Raelene Sousa, is designed for young people who have had limited exposure to swimming and surf safety due to cultural, economic or family barriers. Young people from CareSouth’s Champions (formerly Aunties and Uncles) Out-of-Home Care and Brighter Futures programs, and external organisations including Bundaleer and Barnardos, attended the school holiday workshops.

Raelene said the program addresses social equity and inclusion as many low income families are unable to afford swimming lessons or structured activities during school term breaks. “For many of the young people who attended, this was the first time they had participated in a swimming lesson,” said Raelene. “And they loved it, many of them didn’t want to get out of the water.”

McKeons Swim School Program Coordinator Nicole Costello said it was rewarding to watch the students’ confidence in the water grow each day. “We have seen an improvement in their abilities in such a short time,” said Nicole. “One student didn’t want to get in the water and refused to put her head in, but by the end of the two days she was swimming underwater. “It is so important for every child to have access to swimming lessons and that’s the beauty of this program, it targets children who might not otherwise get to experience lessons.”

A recent Royal Life Saving Society report found 83 per cent of 12-year-old children couldn’t tread water for two minutes, the society’s benchmark for children by the time they finish primary school. The report also found 40 per cent couldn't swim 50 metres of freestyle or backstroke, and one third couldn’t swim 25 metres of survival strokes. Without these lifesaving skills these young people were more vulnerable as teenagers when they were less likely to be supervised while swimming, boating or snorkelling.

The report also found it took an average of 30 private lessons - ranging from $15 to $22 per lesson, over 12-to-15-months - before a child could swim 50 metres. More affluent families accounted for 57 per cent of all children who attend swimming classes.

Raelene said the 5s program caters for vulnerable children and young people who may not have financial access to weekly swimming lessons, with studies showing that swimming was a public health intervention that was low cost with a high return on investment. She said the 5S program also offers scholarships to young people who are willing to commit to weekly swimming lessons.

If you would like more information about CareSouth’s programs please contact 1300 554 260 or visit the website at

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