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Updated: Jan 18, 2021

It was a beautiful sunny summer day. A group of International students, including me, were visiting Coffs Harbour in northern NSW. As part of the summer ritual, we went off to the beach in perfectly calm sea.

I am an average swimmer and waded into the shallow waters (or so I thought) to swim. The next sequence of events are still a haze to me. I was swept away screaming and before long I was rescued by a lifesaver. Thrown onto the beach, I went into a deep sleep and woke up sunburnt and suffering severe sunstroke. Yes, having a dark skin does not protect you from the fierce Australian sun. I was taken to hospital and put on a ‘drip’ to re-hydrate me.

Lately, there have been a lot of drownings – 22 people have died, including international students, so I thought I would share my thoughts on how to swim safely in our beautiful beaches.

Many migrants who arrive here are average, or non, swimmers, and are unaware of the dangers of the Australian water. So, unless you just want to paddle in the water, take note of my survival tips:

1. The beach – enjoy yourself, but be careful. Only swim between the red and yellow flags – which is the area patrolled by our lifesavers (who are dressed in red and yellow swimming trunks and caps).

‘Rips’– these can be dangerous as you can be swept out of shallow water into deeper water. If you are not a strong swimmer, stay close to the water’s edge, and remember my experience!

Sea creatures – it’s not just sharks you have to look out for – it’s also stinging creatures, such as ‘blue bottles’ and jelly fish. If you get stung, seek medical advice.

Sunburn– always have plenty of sunscreen on – irrespective of your skin colour – as ultra violet (UV) can be very high in Australia. I am never out in the sun without 30+ SPF sunscreen and a large-rimmed hat.

2. Fresh water pools – take care when swimming or diving in fresh water pools or rivers because there could be rocks, tree trunks and branches hidden just under the surface which have caused many accidents and deaths.

3. Rock-fishing – this is a great thrill for some, but it can be fraught with danger. This is because some migrants are unaware of the unpredictable nature of the waves crashing over the rocks. This has caused many unnecessary deaths, because fishermen are not always good swimmers, do not always wear life jackets and tend to fish alone.

So, to sum up – it’s important to be aware, but not afraid, of the dangers in our Australian waters. By thinking about your safety first before you go in the water, it will give you and your loved ones, both here and abroad, peace of mind. Enjoy safe swimming!

Want more information?

- Soraya Raju, CEO and Founder of Migrate Success.

Cultural integration expert and creator of the LAB program©

LOOK, ACT, BELONG –For professionals and skilled migrants

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