Creating a voice for the Disability Sector
Creating a voice for the Disability Sector
MATES helps people with a disability learn to swim

MATES helps people with a disability learn to swim

29 March 2022

Swim programs Austswim and Kids Alive Do The Five have joined forces to make swimming more accessible for people living with a disability.

Austswim’s Making Aquatics a Terrific Experience (MATE) free program has been a huge success around the country, giving people confidence to get in the pool and assist friends with disability or injury to use pool accessibility options.

Kids Alive’s Emma Lawrence - daughter of Kids Alive founder Lawrie Lawrence - loves the program which celebrates 10 years this year.

“We want people all over Australia to get to the workshops and learn how everyone can access and be included in swimming and water safety,” she said.

MATE was launched a decade ago to make access to aquatics easier for people living with a disability, medical condition, or injury.

Austswim understands that people living with disabilities or medical conditions, and those who care for them, may not always have the same opportunities to participate in aquatic activities as other members of their community.

Austswim recognises that the aquatic environment is more than just learning swimming and water safety for many people and is proud to support and promote a philosophy that:

  • Works to foster sustainable inclusive community aquatic activities.
  • Acknowledges the right of all community members to participate in aquatic activity.
  • Reduces barriers to aquatic participation.

Ambassador and Olympic gold medal swimmer Brooke Hanson, who has been part of the program since its inception, is thrilled to see the free workshops taking off across the country.

She has a personal connection with the MATE program - her son has a stoma.

“Seeing him in the water, seeing him confident, seeing him smiling, that's what made me want to do the MATE workshop as well,” Brooke said.

She told the ABC recently the course gave people confidence to help others in the pool.

"Giving them confidence to use some of the machinery around and realise that there are ramps at a lot of the pools and really understanding how they can get their mate to the pool, who has a disability or illness," Brooke said.

"It's all about having that access and inclusion and redefining diversity.”

"We want people all over Australia to get to the workshops and learn how everyone can access and be included in swimming and water safety," Emma said.

"I think swimming is so great for the social, emotional and physical development and being in the water is such a wonderful experience."

During this free workshop, participants will learn pivotal water safety principles to help make aquatic activities safer for people who face barriers to access and inclusion. The MATE workshop offers:

  • Engaging and interactive education.
  • Comprehensive and informative notes.
  • Real-life scenario examples and troubleshooting.
  • Simulation exercises – explaining what your body does in, on and around the water.
  • Aquatic activities to use in an inclusive setting.
  • Networking opportunities with like-minded people.

Workshops can be attended by anyone who works with, cares for, deals with or lives with someone who has a disability or medical condition, presenting them with barriers for visiting the pool or aquatic facility, including:

  • Family members
  • Carers
  • Personal attendants
  • Disability support staff
  • Allied health professionals
  • Occupational therapists
  • Physiotherapists
  • Team leaders
  • Personal trainers
  • Lifeguards
  • AUSTSWIM teachers

There are around 60 free MATE courses offered around Australia this year - check out your nearest free community workshop HERE.

To find out more about this wonderful program, head HERE.


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