As the “hottest heat-wave in a decade” makes its way into the greater Sydney region, more and more Australians are opting to ‘cool down’ by taking a dip in the many beaches NSW has to offer.
The beach is a popular destination for both residents and tourists in the Summer, and reasonably too. It has become a symbol of Aussie culture – you take a few mates to Bondi or Cronulla, have a swim, play a bit of beach cricket, and if the tide’s right – go surfing. But all of this adrenaline-pumping action does not take away from the dangers the ocean imposes.
It is as Morgan Freeman said: “If you live a life of make-believe, your life isn’t worth anything until you do something that does challenge your reality. And to me, sailing the open ocean is a real challenge, because it’s life or death”.
Experiencing the ocean – regardless of it’s pleasures – can literally be a matter of life and death.
According to Royal Life Saving Australia, 248 people drowned in Australian waterways from between July 2019 and June 2020. This was despite the early phases of COVID-19 restrictions which came into play after March, 2020. Even more were hospitalised due to non-fatal drowning incidents. And that’s just one year.
Following a near-death experience, Swim Brothers, a group hailing from Western Sydney, began to work on building surf-literacy in the multicultural NSW communities. Sunday 24 January marked Swim Brothers’ first public event, where the team made their way to Cronulla beach to have a ‘swimming clinic’ with surf lifesavers.
If you follow us on social media, you may have heard of this initiative recently on our company’s pages as a cause we have been supporting. If you didn’t, you would almost certainly have heard about it all on Channel 7 news, or Channel 10’s The Project, or in the Sydney Morning Herald, or any number of other media outlets they’ve been featured in.
Swim Brothers is a cause we encourage everyone to support and this is why. Having grown up in Sydney surrounded by a plethora of cultures and religions, we are all too familiar with the struggles faced by the CALD community.
People of different languages and cultures are often thrown into the beach-oriented culture that is modern Australia but without the practical tools to navigate its more challenging features.
While we all fall in love with the water and beach, very few migrant-background communities have the facilities – and more importantly culture – to train their youth on how to navigate the risks of the water. It is no secret that Australia hosts some of the most serene beaches in the world, and visitors are uniquely delighted by this fact. But in countries where beach culture does not exist for religious, economic or geographic reasons, it is no surprise families do not have the awareness to pass down this “water ethic” to their children.
The cost of this? Many beach goers from migrant communities struggling to know what to do in challenging situations when it comes to water safety. This is starkly captured in the deaths and drownings we see every year at the beach.
Whether it be getting caught in a rip, or drowning because of an inability to swim, the dangers are all too real for our communities.
It’s time we started building a culture of water-awareness and a skills-first approach when it comes to the water and the beach. Swim Brothers is doing just that. Born out of a near-tragic incident that almost saw 3 young guys drown in the one moment, its leaders have grown it into a small movement of people keen to enjoy our amazing waters, but with the ability to navigate its risks.
Following two-weeks of training at Auburn pool, the team went down to Cronulla beach to learn hands-on from Surfing Australia lifeguards, who educated the attendees on the swimming hazards in our waters and how to survive them.
As Feroz Sattar, one of the leaders behind Swim Brothers, told the media: “There’s so much symbolism behind why we chose Cronulla to launch this weekend; many of our participants had not returned to the shire since the riots in 2005”.
“To have the head lifeguards come down, shake our members’ hands and teach them all about beach safety and how to spot a rip was really important not only for their surf literacy but an important demonstration they’re welcome to use the beach.”
Swim Brothers plan on organising regular swimming clinics for CALD communities with Surf Lifeguards across the NSW coast.
We are proud to support this much needed community initiative, and hope it is a strong step towards safe swimming.
We invite you all to follow this great cause and go along for the journey – we certainly will be!