Milton Luiz will no longer be confined to dry ground while his children enjoy the water this summer.
The Prospect man is among a growing number of adults getting into the pool later in life through Blacktown Council’s Aqua Learn to Swim program.
The growing popularity of adult classes in western Sydney reflects research from Royal Lifesaving Society NSW, which shows tourists and migrants are over-represented in drowning statistics.
Mr Luiz, 55, was raised in India and did not have the chance to learn how to swim as a child. He then nearly drowned at a dangerous beach as a teenager.
The father of two made sure his own children learned at a young age, but never felt comfortable joining them in the water.
“My famous saying was, ‘I could drown in two inches of water’,” he said.
“I thought it was too late for me to learn. But the instructor encouraged me and I thought, let’s take the plunge.”
Mr Luiz has now signed up for his third term of lessons. His aim is to be able to go snorkelling and swim at a calm beach.
“It was all to do with getting over the fear. The only way is to confront it,” he said.
“It’s changed me, I really enjoy jumping into the water now. There’s a sense of achievement the first time you jump in the deep end.”
Royal Lifesaving Society NSW health promotion manager Kimberley Noffs said it’s important for migrants of all ages to learn how to swim.
“Participating in aquatic recreation is part of Australian culture,” she said. “It’s a very hot country, we’re always out and about at the beach, the river and the pool, and often we see people from culturally diverse communities not necessarily understanding the importance of water safety.”
The society last year gave free swimming lessons to 3000 adults and thousands more children, including at its unique safety and training academy in Seven Hills.
Ms Noffs said besides swimming and first aid lessons, there were other important skills to learn before venturing in a beach or river.
Invisible currents, submerged objects, lack of supervision and the presence of alcohol make rivers and dams Australia’s most deadly waterways.
While children are the most vulnerable, recent statistics showed people aged 45-54 made up the highest amount of drownings.
More than 70 per cent of adults who drowned in Australia last year were men, often due to alcohol intake and risk-taking behaviour, according to Ms Noffs.
She said people should leave their drinking until they were away from water, where they may be a risk to themselves and others.
“Always go with another person. Don’t ever swim or do any aquatic recreation by yourself. It’s important to have someone there to help you in you get into danger.”
Beginner, intermediate and advanced swimming lessons run at each of Blacktown Council’s five aquatic centres for anyone aged six months or older.
- Expressions of interest are now open for term four of the Aqua Learn to Swim program. For more information call 9622 2279