October 3, 2018


Olympian and former champion swimmer, Melanie Wright, shares her concerns on the alarming number of Aussie children who can’t actually swim.

As a small child growing up on the Sunshine Coast, learning how to swim was not presented to me as an optional extra. It was de rigueur; top priority and a non-negotiable part of my childhood. In a land peppered with pools, beaches, creeks, rivers and dams, opportunities for drowning were everywhere. And all the Mums knew it.

So from the earliest opportunity, all the kids in my social clique were taken to swimming lessons at the local pool and were quite literally, thrown in the deep end. Taking swimming lessons was the best insurance policy against their children drowning that these Mums had, and they were prepared to hand over what little coin they could scrape together to get it.

Our family got a backyard pool when I was four and between the pool and the nearby beach, I was constantly exposed to water. As I got a bit older, going to the local pool or the beach was a social outing with my friends.

The stats on kids who can’t swim are very concerning

Coming from that kind of background where everyone, and I mean everyone, could swim, at least enough to get themselves out of trouble, by the age of 5, it astonished me to read that currently in Australia only 67 per cent of children under the age of 5 know how to swim.

That means a third don’t. Poolwerx research shows that almost half (47 per cent) of Australian parents rated their children’s water safety skills as poor or average and one in three parents believed their child would be unable to get out of a pool if they fell in.

Have our increasingly crowded schedules pushed swimming lessons down our list of priorities? We march our kids off to piano lessons and soccer practice, why is a life skill like swimming less important? Or is it simply that cost is a factor?

As a Mum, I know all the extra-curricular activities our children are involved in can add up but for me, swimming lessons should be prioritised over other activities and should be seen as a crucial part of early development. As Mums, we need to push swimming lessons for under 5s back to the top of our priority list. Poolwerx research shows that over 50 per cent of parents are willing to spend between $11 and $20 for extra-curricular activities, however they are prioritising other activities over swimming lessons.

Knowing how to swim is the no.1 determining factor in whether your child survives a near-drowning incident if you’re not around to save them. When faced with that fact is seems illogical not to get your kids enrolled in swimming lessons pronto.

Learn2Swim Week

Yes there’s a point to all this – October 2 to 9 is national Learn2Swim Week, seven days devoted to encouraging parents across the country to get their kids in the pool and learning to swim.

Hundreds of swim schools across the country are supporting the initiative by offering free – yes free – swimming lessons for under 5s.

So no excuses about the household budget. And with under 5 swimming lessons taking typically no more than half an hour, the excuse of ‘no time’ starts to look a little thin also.

To find a swim school in your area offering free swimming lessons as part of Learn2Swim Week visit the website, http://learn2swimweek.com/, and punch in your postcode.

It will only take you a minute but it just might save the life of your child.

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  • This is a concern. I always thought swimming lessons were a part of tge school curriculum. I know we did them for phys ed, my kids did too


  • It is concerning the amount of children who do not know how to swim. Though it is no surprise when local pools now cost a small fortune to take the children/family


  • I know of one child who never finished learning to swim as well has he should as every time he goes in the pool he gets an ear infection.
    I know another one who has been taught to swim in a private home pool due to medication allergy The particular medication leeches out of skin and lingers in pool water unless the correct excessively strong chemicals are used.
    I have severe coordination problems and go around in circles when swimming. I have also developed a neurological problem and have been advised not to go swimming unless I have somebody beside me the whole time watching me very carefully.


  • Although my children were taught to swim when they were young, the suddenness of falling into a pond or dam fully clothed will still wreak havoc. Mine didn’t fully appreciate swimming until the next door neighbours had a pool installed and then we couldn’t keep them out of the pool.


  • One week of swimming is a good start but nowhere near enough to have children that are safe around water.


  • I didn’t know this so thanks for sharing


  • This is really informative so thank you for this!


  • This is great, I’ve contacted a pool in my local area- hopefully my 3yr old can get in.


  • This article with the suggestion that many swim schools offer free lessons this week, should have been placed some weeks ago. Too late to arrange something now.


  • I looked into swimming lessons and we just could not afford it. So my 5 year old can’t swim. It wasn’t about prioritising other things. It was just way out of the budget.

    The free lessons were so far away that it was going to be out of the budget to travel too them.

    It definitely needs to be made available for all kids at no cost.


  • I’ve just searched the 100km radius of my postcode for the free swimming lessons – there nothing at all for me.
    Neither of my 2 kids who are older than 2 could swim when they were under 5. I would have loved to have had them doing swimming lessons before they started the school swimming, but we could not afford it at all. Still can’t afford private lessons for them or our son who is less than 5.
    Perhaps if swim schools, instructors and/or the government are really wanting to reduce these statistics, they should be lowering the swimming fees drastically! I honestly don’t know if many families who could afford swimming fees!


  • I would to put my kids into swimming lessons but at around $90 a month for each child and I have 3 that’s $270 month. I looked at Vac swim which are meant to be cheap though the government at around $7-$25 a child sound good for school holiday swimming but you still have to pay the pool entry at around $5-6 a child and then a parent that’s still for me $200 on pool entry for me


  • Lessons are around $15 a week give up something to save your child’s life. I know people with pools who don’t send their kids to lessons..and yes they can afford .. these kids don’t know how to swim and they are older than 5..what the article was addressing people who pay for all these other activities but don’t put their kids in swimming lessons..


  • Why under 5 should be under 12….swimming lessons are so expensive and yes it is a skill for life but I know a lot of people who simply can not afford it….so make it free for set number of weeks each term.


  • Our swimming lesson just went up to $89 a month
    Why can’t the government subsidise swimming lesson!


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