The Inner West Council is training asylum seekers to become life guards as a new swim school is being used to help integrate new refugees into Australian waters.
Three female Refugee Welcome Centre participants of the learn-to-swim program are in the process of becoming qualified life guards. The program opened at Leichhardt Aquatic Centre in February, and now the Royal Life Saving Society of NSW has agreed to provide lifeguard training for participants.
The partnership between the Inner West Council and Royal Life Saving Society of NSW will train newly arrived asylum seekers to become life guards.
Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne said the initiative showed the practical differences the Refugee Welcome Centre was making in people’s lives.
“To see clients from the centre now training life guards and potentially saving the lives of Australian kids shows what a meaningful contribution refugees make to Australia,” he said.
Sophie Bejek, who fled from Aleppo three years ago and is now training to become a lifeguard, said “I’d love to learn to swim professionally and to become a lifeguard, so I can get work in something I love.”
She said that she and her family would frequently go to swimming pools in Aleppo, as they lived over four hours from the sea. She was keen to continue her hobby in Sydney.
“I already like swimming, so when I heard about this program I was so excited to participate,” she said.The Callan Park Refugee Welcome Centre was established in 2016 by the former Leichhardt Council, and provides humanitarian services and wellbeing activities for newly arrived refugees.
The Centre is a partnership between Inner West Council, Settlement Services International and the Justice of the Peace Office of the Catholic Diocese of Sydney.