A first of its kind Illawarra initiative wants to teach refugees how to swim as soon as they arrive to reduce the number of drownings in the region.
To help make this happen Illawarra Multicultural Services is launching their Refugee Swim Instructor Training Program.
IMS project worker Marty Richardson said the multi-layered program will support four refugee background people to qualify as Swim Australia Instructors.
"Lessons in water safety have been run and are being run through various agencies and pools but this is the first time it has gone through to the swim instructor stage," he said.
"If we can teach people to swim early on in their settlement before they have really got a grasp of English, we are actually going to help in water safety from day one, rather than waiting for them to learn a level of English they can understand to do the lessons in."
Mr Richardson said water safety was a serious matter in the Illawarra.
Too often inexperienced swimmers get into trouble at our beautiful beaches. In particular, newly arrived refugees too often find themselves in life threatening situations that require competent swimming ability.IMS project officer Marty Richardson
"Too often inexperienced swimmers get into trouble at our beautiful beaches. In particular, newly arrived refugees too often find themselves in life threatening situations that require competent swimming ability," he said.
With IMB funding the project, IMS collaborated with the Illawarra Swim School to develop the multi-layered initiative that aims to lower the number of water safety incidents.
Firstly, IMS will continue to coordinate their weekly swimming lessons for people with migrant and refugee backgrounds.
These lessons have helped over 40 "water-loving" locals this year alone learn how to swim.
Secondly, four refugee background locals will be trained to be the Swim Instructors.
"Because of their own experience as refugees and their bi-lingual skills, the instructors will be able to offer culturally sensitive swimming lessons to refugees," Mr Richardson said.
"From their first weeks of arrival, new residents will now have a means to improve their water safety skills."
The program has got the thumbs up from Swim Australia trainer Haydn Belshaw.
"I think this is a fantastic idea and I will personally give a reduction in the cost of training. There should be more of this type of thing," he said.
Another trainer suggested the "brilliant concept" had the potential of being repeated across Australia.
Illawarra refugee support organisations have also backed the plan which also provides a pathway to future employment.
"We want a number of different cultures represented and males and females," Mr Richardson said.
"To apply call IMS on 4229 6855 no later than Monday, September 16."