Children like Zedan Halef and Mustafa Khalaf have never had swimming lessons.
That is until this week.
Having arrived in Wagga from troubled countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, the boys, alongside a number of Wagga’s non-English speaking residents, did not know how to swim.
With national statistics finding non-English speaking residents to be most at risk of drowning, Wagga’s Multicultural Council applied to fund free classes to prevent this.
Water safety classes will this week provide more than 120 swimmers with the skills to survive in the water.
More than 800 residents will be taught water safety as part of the state government-supported Water Safety Fund program across 12 months.
The initiative follows almost 300 drowning deaths in national waterways last year, according to Royal Life Saving Australia.
The RLS report also found Indigenous, migrant and refugee communities to be most at risk, with a noted lack of lack the swimming and water safety skills.
Mustafa Khalaf, 12, said before Monday, he had never attended a swimming lesson.
“It’s been really fun,” Mustafa said. “I’ve been learning how to swim freestyle.”