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Deaf children travelling across Melbourne for Auslan learn-to-swim lessons

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More swim instructors need to learn the Australian sign language Auslan, the coordinator of a swimming program for deaf children says.

The Northcote Aquatic Centre, in Melbourne's north, began offering learn-to-swim classes in Auslan in 2014.

Coordinator Katrina Gevaux said families were travelling from as far as Laverton in Melbourne's outer west, Clayton in the east, and Bentleigh in the south so their children could attend the lessons.

She said of the more than 20 deaf children who regularly attended the classes, only two were local.

The YMCA-run centre began offering the program after a parent approached Ms Gevaux about swimming lessons for their deaf child.

"I thought, 'there's no way I'm turning this parent away'," she told 774 ABC Melbourne's Hilary Harper.

One of the swim instructors at the centre, Laura May, was a child of deaf parents.

Together they decided to trial a program in Auslan.

Ms Gevaux said the only other aquatic centre in Melbourne she knew of with a swimming teacher who could communicate in Auslan was in Casey in the outer east.

Auslan lessons 'life-changing'

Fiona Baessler, who lives in Newport in Melbourne's west, travels to Northcote with her four-year-old son Josh every week to attend the swimming lessons.

"We approached a few swimming centres originally when he was around two, because we really thought it [learning to swim] was a vital skill," she said.

After contacting several centres, she eventually found one pool where the staff said they could try and accommodate Josh in their regular learn-to-swim classes.

"He just couldn't follow the lesson at all," Ms Baessler said.

She said finding the Northcote lessons had been "life-changing".

"It was just amazing — he could follow the lesson, he actually understood what was going on," she said.

Ms Gevaux has decided to learn Auslan and encouraged other swim instructors to do the same.

"Although I'm still learning to how to communicate in a full sentence, I do know the basic [signs] for swimming," she said.


Source: ABC

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