Local kids hit the water

MONDAY'S chilly weather didn't stop 225 local children from diving head first into their first VACSWIM class for the year.

The annual program, which is open to young people aged five to 18, runs at Naracoorte Swimming Lake until next Tuesday.

Coordinator Hannah Craig said participants were being taught all the different swimming strokes and water safety.

"I think it's vital for them to be able to learn these skills - being aware of water and its potential dangers," she said.

"We've mainly got kids from Naracoorte but also some from Lucindale and Frances.

"The first day was very cold but it is getting warmer during the week. Despite the cold the kids enjoy it.

"It's fun and something for them to do in the holidays."

Across SA there are more than 13,500 children who participate in the VACSWIM program.

To support its growing popularity the State Government has increased its annual contribution from $533,000 to $580,000 for 2014.

Recreation and Sport Minister Leon Bignell said it played an important role in teaching children how to swim and be safe in the water. 

"As South Australians, being in and around the water is part of our culture, so it is vitally important for children to learn to swim and be confident in the water from a young age," he said. 

"Since the 1950s VACSWIM SA has been an iconic part of the summer, teaching children the survival skills needed to be competent in the water, in a safe and fun environment. "

Figures from the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia's 2013 Drowning Report show 291 people drowned in Australia between July 1 2012 and June 30 2013 - 14 of those were in SA.

Of these deaths, 31 occurred in children aged zero to four years, nine occurred in children aged five to 14 years and 26 occurred in young people aged 15 to 24.

The VACSWIM SA program is delivered by the YMCA on behalf of the State Government, under the watchful eyes of 650 instructors.

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