Wauchope could be home to first aboriginal swim academy

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Success story: Aboriginal Family Worker Jo Shipp, and drug and alcohol counsellor David Fredericks with Emma Schuch in the pool. All three are strong supporters of plans to kick-start an aboriginal swim academy in Wauchope. Pic:?PETER?GLEESONAN aboriginal swim academy based in Wauchope could become a hub for an Australia-wide program.
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Mid North Coast Local Health District drug and alcohol counsellor David Frederick is also setting some ambitious goals for the academy.

“One of my aims is to have a swimmer reach the national titles level within four or five years,” Mr Frederick said.

To help achieve that lofty target, Mr Frederick is eyeing $5 million in funding to bring the vision to realisation. He said the federal government funding was central to the program getting underway while Port Macquarie-Hastings Council is also involved in potential funding opportunities.

The swim academy concept was seeded with initial funding of just $5000 made available through the health district’s Big Ideas grant.

“We’ve already started on a small scale involving kids from the Macleay and Hastings areas,” he said.

“My view is that if the concept works in the micro working with local families it will work in the macro working within communities. “The genesis was in working through how to give confidence back to people, and importantly their families, who were coming through our drug, alcohol and or cancer treatment programs.

“These people were returning to society but they still needed help.

“We initially partnered with aboriginal health and the local drug and alcohol services and funded small water safety courses. Our focus is on swimming and learning how to enjoy a healthy lifestyle.

“Austswim came on board and helped with funding which helped increase our intake of participants from around 220 kids in 2013/14 to over 430 this year.”

Drownings within the aboriginal community were four times the rate than the general community at the national level, said Mr Frederick.

Aboriginal Family Worker Jo Shipp from Community Health was able to “get the word out” about programs that now had people lining up to attend.

“For the first program we ran, I think I had two weeks to get the names,” she said.

“The response has been wonderful. And, while we are producing more confident swimmers we are also getting parents involved to become swim instructors too.

“It really is working well.

Local Ironman and 70.3 participant Emma Schuch was keen on the aboriginal swim academy.

She said fitness was a major part of her regime and I can see the value in supporting this program.

Ms Schuch completed her first Ironman and Ironman 70.3 in 2014 before taking time off to start her family the following year.

She competed in this year’s 2016 Ironman 70.3 beating her pre-baby time.

Mr Frederick said council has been approached about Wauchope becoming the centre of the swim academy, although it would be an inclusive program.

“We will target kids from an early age to start their thought processes on good health.

“The program includes, organising health checks at the site because, we’ve found, that demonstrated health education – raising self awareness – gets the best outcomes,” he said.

“This academy is really a metaphor for good health in our community.

“Once the academy gets started, our plan is to bring families from Moree, Brewarrina, Bourke – where drowning rates are around 42 per cent – for an intensive two week Austswim program.

“The kids undertake the swim classes and the parents undergo the instructors course before returning home to set up the academy in their respective home town.

“And they learn about good health as part of the package.”

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