Never learnt to swim? You’re not alone

swimming pool

Jessica Taylor Yates

Posted November 30, 2021

Just like riding a bike, some people never got the chance to learn how to swim. Though it may seem daunting for an adult, it's never too late to jump in the deep end. 

While it can sometimes feel like Aussies are born knowing how to freestyle, for a lot of people, swimming doesn't summon pictures of relaxing times at the beach, but anxiety and fear of the unknown. 

According to a Royal Life Saving Australia report, five per cent of Australian adults cannot swim at all – but it's argued this figure may actually be higher as people do not wish to report it. 

Dont miss out on the fun this summer, and though it may be intimidating at first, learning to swim - even as an adult - is a life skill that increases fitness, improves mental health, adds recreational enjoyment, and might just save your life.  

Swimming lessons for adults

Why some people never learned how to swim

While swimming lessons are now a mandatory part of primary school in Australia, for many, being in or around large bodies of water can cause feelings of anxiety and unease simply due to their inexperience in the water.

Some children and adults may simply have never gotten the lessons due to affordability, access, disability, or a lack of priority in areas where swimming was not common. 

The report also found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, First National peoples, ethnic minorities, and rural residents were at a greater risk of drowning due to their lack of education around water. 

As an estimated 30 per cent of Australians are new migrants who are also inexperienced around the water, they may have not had the same opportunities for swimming lessons or taught water safety skills – but this doesn’t mean it's too late to learn and enjoy the water safely. 

Why is it important to know how to swim? 

First of all, swimming is engrained in Australian culture and a cornerstone of our lifestyle. Getting in one of the country’s many pools, beaches, lakes, rivers, and waterholes with friends and family is one of the icons that make this country great.

That aside, the major reason to know how to swim is a life-saving skill. While swimming and water safety education has been a part of the Victorian Curriculum since 2017, not every Australian has had this opportunity. Without knowing basic swim skills, going into the water can be extremely dangerous. 

This can greatly impact quality of life, as well as the ability to properly supervise children in the water and understand beach and pool safety regulations.

Australia is surrounded by water, which is why organisations such as Royal Life Saving Australia have committed to Australian children having the ‘right to a comprehensive swimming and water safety education.’ 

With an aim for ‘a water-loving nation free from drowning,’ it is imperative that people feel comfortable in water, and know the signs to look for to keep themselves and others safe. 

Aside from the potential life-saving benefits and added hobby also provides many health benefits. When used as a form of exercise, swimming can be utilised to assist in building endurance, muscle strength, and cardiovascular fitness, tone muscles and build strength.

swimming pool at RACV Healesville Resort

Gainging knowledge in swimming and water safety is a life-saving skill for children and adults alike - and it's never too late to learn. 


Where can adults go to learn how to swim? 

While it may seem nerve-racking at first to head for swimming lessons as an adult, be assured that it is quite common, and welcomed by the swimming community – you are doing something to improve yourself and help those around you.

Start by enquiring with your local pool or swim centre. They may offer group classes, or you may prefer private lessons to suit your individual needs. All swim teachers should be AUSTSWIM accredited and are specialised in assisting you to reach your goals – whether you just want to become comfortable and confident in the water by learning fundamental swimming and water safety to fully mastering your strokes, swimming, and diving techniques. 

Becoming comfortable in the water will assist in helping you to enjoy the water, while keeping fit and being able to look after yourself and your loved ones safely. 

How long will it take to learn how to swim? 

This is largely based on the individual, and what you are looking to achieve. Some may only want a few lessons for basics, and others may feel more comfortable with an ongoing routine to improve their confidence and swimming ability. After an initial lesson with a swim instructor, they will be able to help advise the best pathway for you to gain confidence in the water. 

And remember, once you do, there are plenty of places to enjoy the water from swim holes to beaches – just make sure to do it safely!