Swim and Survive Fund

Sadly, more than 50 children between the ages of one and 17 drown in Australia every year, highlighting the need of swimming and water safety education for all Australian children. But unfortunately, many don't get the opportunity.

Indigenous children, those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, children living in regional and remote communities, and those from lower socio-economic areas, often miss out on learning how to Swim and Survive. These children are our focus.

UNCLE TOBYS and Royal Life Saving Society – Australia are proudly working together to provide swimming and water safety education to children in the communities listed above.

Royal Life Saving has established a community partnership with Barnardos Australia who is undertaking the sensitive task of nominating and allocating children between the ages of 5 to 12 years to participate in the program.

Help us reach our target of providing 10,000 children with the water safety skills and knowledge they will need to Swim and Survive.

Case Study – Matilda


One day during a hospital visit, Mary recognised a former work colleague – and came face-to-face with the importance of swimming and water safety education. Her colleague’s son had been found face down in a neighbours’ swimming pool. Attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful and the boy drowned at just three years of age.


“Everyone was inconsolable,” Mary said. “It was horrific to witness. You hear about it and read about it, but to be that close and see all that grief had a huge impact on me.” At the time Mary did not feel confident that her own daughter Matilda had the skills to swim to the side of a swimming pool if she accidently fell in. “I just knew that from that night on learning to swim needed to be a major priority,” she said.


Matilda has Down Syndrome and was given the opportunity to learn swimming and water safety skills through the Swim and Survive Fund. “It seemed perfect and we were very happy to accept,” Mary said.


Matilda started with weekly lessons at a Royal Life Saving partner facility in July 2011. She was a little unsure about getting in the water at first, but flourished as she adapted to her new routine and became more familiar with her environment.


The achievements soon started coming. “Floating was a huge achievement because we had been trying to teach her to float for years but she didn’t have the confidence to let go. It was such a big milestone when she learnt to float.”


Matilda then progressed from basic over arm freestyle to freestyle with bilateral breathing – again, another milestone. “Matilda always struggled with her breathing but it has really improved,” Mary said.


But the Swim and Survive Fund has given Matilda much more than the ability to swim. “One of the best things about Matilda and her swimming lessons is that she can do everything that all the other kids can do, which is really important for her self-esteem and confidence,” Mary said.


Matilda’s muscle strength has also developed, better enabling her to participate in new activities and play with her friends. “One of the things that we will work on this summer is to translate her swimming skills from the pool to the beach. With Down Syndrome, there is low muscle tone so she gets tumbled quite a lot in the waves”.


And there have been other benefits. “She normally has preventative treatment for her asthma during winter, but her asthma is improving and she actually hasn’t needed any this year,” Mary said.


Mary recently enrolled Matilda in her first camp where she will participate in aquatic activities unaided. “I am normally very nervous about anyone else looking after her in the water. But on the enrolment form I was able to write that Matilda could swim without floaties. I am so proud of her!”


Thanks to the Swim and Survive Fund, Matilda now has swimming and water safety skills. They are skills she will have forever and skills that may one day save her life.