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What is VACSWIM?

VACSWIM is South Australia’s summer holiday swimming program. Since the 1950s, VACSWIM has played an integral part in teaching swimming skills and water safety to children.

Australians spend a lot of time by the pool, river and beach. It is a wonderful part of our lifestyle. Sadly, drowning accounted for 339 deaths nationwide in the 2021/2022 financial year. VACSWIM seeks to change these statistics.

Their program gives our children the knowledge and skills to be competent in and around water. It is endorsed and subsidised by the SA Government.

There are five key areas that VACSWIM focuses on:

  • Water Awareness
  • Water Safety
  • Water Confidence
  • Water Skills
  • Water Fun

Why choose VACSWIM?

VACSWIM is an incredible program offered to children and young people in South Australia. Surprisingly, it is not widely known about in some circles. I’d like to help change this.

VACSWIM is affordable for many families with engaging instructors and quality lessons. I love that lessons cater for children at their age and stage and builds on their previous skills. My boys love looking in their log books to see what they will be working towards and what they need to do to get each section ticked off. My eldest is already excited just thinking about getting a job as an instructor one day. What wonderful motivation this is for our children.

My child already does swimming lessons. Do they need to do VACSWIM too?

Whilst not compulsory, VACSWIM has a different focus to traditional swimming lessons. They spend time teaching water safety, survival and rescue in different bodies of water. Swimming in a controlled setting like a pool is very different to a beach or lake. There are different dangers to be aware of and require targeted teaching and practise.

Does VACSWIM take the place of swimming lessons?

VACSWIM doesn’t take the place of swimming lessons. Learning how to swim is a vital skill and regular time spent in the water helps to build confidence and a correct technique.

I would recommend to book VACSWIM in addition to regular swimming lessons.

If cost is a barrier, consider some of these options:

  • applying for Sports Vouchers ($100 off fees during every calendar year per school age child)
  • booking in for lessons during Term 1 and 4
  • booking in for a block of lessons in school holidays at a swim centre
  • taking your child regularly to a pool to help with water familiarisation and teach them what you can

Where is VACSWIM held?

VACSWIM is held at over 130 beach, pool, lake and river locations all around metro and regional South Australia.

It is an opportunity to help your child build confidence around water and skills specific to the type of water. Parents can enrol their child at a location close to home or book in to attend while on holiday.

It is imperative to us that our children are safe in and around water. For this reason, I now enrol my boys for both a pool week and a beach week each year.

Is it exhausting? Yes.

Is it worth it? Also yes.

You can search for VACSWIM locations here.

If you are looking for locations in other states, here are some links to get you started:

NSW SwimVAC

Victoria VICSWIM

QLD VACSWIM

NT Vacswim

Western Australia VACSwim

Tasmania (Not VACSWIM but has a holiday swimming program)

When is VACSWIM held?

VACSWIM is held every year during the Australian summer school holiday break (December and January). There are four blocks, each held across five days.

You may book in your child/ren for one block or multiple, depending on your availability and budget. The dates for VACSWIM vary every year but for the 2023/2024 season, the weeks are as follows:

Block 1: 18th to 22nd of December (Monday to Friday)

Block 2: 2nd to 6th of January 2024 (Tuesday to Saturday)

Block 3: 8th to 12th of January 2024 (Monday to Friday)

Block 4: 15th to 19th of January 2024 (Monday to Friday)

How long does each session go for?

The length of the session depends on the age and level of your child.

Preschool to Level 2: 45 minutes (3.75 hours across the week)

Level 3 to Water Rescues: 1 hour (5 hours across the week)

Community Surf or Pool Rescue: 1.5 hours (7.5 hours across the week)

Who can participate?

VACSWIM is open to children ages 3-12.

In the past, VACSWIM catered for those 5 and older but in recent years, have opened up enrolments for younger children. I personally have found this so handy. It means siblings don’t have to sit on the sidelines and watch the older ones have all the fun.

You can access the different class types and even complete a quiz to find the best level for your child.

How much does it cost?

VACSWIM is more affordable than traditional swimming lessons. The cost depends on your location and the age of your children.

Ages 3-12 (VACSWIM)

  • Enrolment Fee: First block of the season: $30 (subsequent blocks aren’t subsidised, $63.50)
  • Location Fee: Varies on location, approx. $25- $35
  • Equipment Fee: $1.50

Ages 12-15 (Higher Levels)

These courses attract higher fees as they are an extension of the VACSWIM program. They are not subsidised by the SA Government.

  • Enrolment Fee: $65
  • Location Fee: Varies on location, approx. $25- $35
  • Equipment Fee: $1.50

You can find out more here.

In my opinion, VACSWIM is amazing value. I love that children of different ages can participate and siblings can join in too.

At our local pool, children could stay and swim for free after their lesson. We made the most of our time there. It was incredible to watch their confidence and skill level improve during this week, from both the lessons and the time to practise.

What do we need to bring?

Here are some ideas of what to wear or bring to VACSWIM:

  • Bathers
  • Hat
  • Rashie (we use Quiksilver rashies, especially the thermal ones during cool weather.)
  • Sunscreen
  • Goggles
  • Sandals or slides
  • Bottle of water
  • Change of clothes
  • Towel
  • Medication
  • VACSWIM logbook (if you have one from previous years or can order one)

Packing, in my opinion, is the worst part of VACSWIM. I know it will get easier and I won’t have to bring all the things. Until then, I fully embrace the use of our beach trolley. In it go all the things so I have at least one arm free to wrangle the boys. There are many types available that can make weeks like VACSWIM all the more successful. Our Kmart one is still going strong.

Check out their social pages to keep up to date with the latest news on Instagram and Facebook.

When do registrations open?

VACSWIM enrolments open on Friday, September 1st, 2023.

Sessions fill quickly. I would recommend setting a reminder in your phone so you can ensure you get your chosen location, week and time slot. I would encourage you to find a friend or two who might like to attend at the same time as well. It’s always more fun with someone else, especially if they stay on later for a play or lunch too.

You can find the enrolment page here.

Is there a program for older children?

Absolutely! VACSWIM have recently extended their program to cater for teens aged 12-15. The Higher Awards is a brilliant way for teenagers to stay engaged and connected with swimming.

It can be the antidote to boredom and a way to get them off the screens. It can be a way for friends to complete the levels together or find new friends. It helps to bridge the gap between VACSWIM, teenage years and employment.

The Higher Awards Program provides young people the skills and confidence they need to detect and assist with emergency situations in and around the water. These non-accredited courses are 1 hour classes across 5 days.

Water Rescues (12-13 years)

This program aimed at 12-13 year olds, enables them to work towards Water Rescues.

In Basic Water Rescues participants will learn to perform rescues, identify dangers, resuscitation, basic first aid and water supervision skills relevant to the environment they are participating in. This is a great way to introduce young people on how to keep themselves and their friends safe in aquatic environments.

You can access the lesson outcomes here.

Community Surf Rescue & Community Pool Rescue (13-15 years)

This program is aimed at the 13-15 year old age group, allowing them to work towards Community Surf Rescue and Community Pool Rescue. It builds on the skills learned in Water Rescue.

Here are the outcomes for the Surf Rescue and the Pool Rescue.

For those who successfully completed both the Community Surf Rescue and Community Pool Rescue courses, they are able to attend a training hub. This allows them to have their skills assessed to be awarded two Units of Competency:

  • SISCAQU002 Basic Water Rescues
  • HLTAID009 Provide CPR.

Although this certificate is an additional $60, it is actually cheaper to do this training through VACSWIM rather than doing the full day course through Surf Life Saving Australia.

The Pool Rescue Certificate is equivalent to the Royal Life Saving Bronze Medallion. All participants are able to be assessed for the Pool Rescue Certificate at the training hub. If they are unsuccessful in the extended assessment components, they will have the opportunity to be assessed for the Community Pool Rescue Certificate.

You can find out more information about the Higher Award Programs here.

What employment options do you have?

VACSWIM and the Higher Awards programs are a brilliant pathway to gaining employment. Young people will have the opportunity to develop confidence, gain further skills, help to teach the next generation of Australians and earn some money.

To become an Assistant Instructor, you must:

–        Be aged at least 15 years prior to VACSWIM block 1 commencement

–        Hold a current paid Working with Children’s Check

–        Hold a Play by the Rules – Child Protection and Safeguarding Certificate (FREE online course)

–        Hold a rescue qualification (Community Surf Rescue Certificate or Community Pool Rescue Certificate)

You can find out more information about employment here.

Where can I find out more?

To find out more, be sure to subscribe to VACSWIM’s mailing list. You can also email them at vacswim@surflifesavingsa.com.au or call them on (08) 8354 6996.

Don’t leave it too late. Book it in. See you by the water!

Have you tried VACSWIM with your children yet? I’d love to hear below or connect with you over on Instagram or Facebook.

Melanie Wegener

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