Joplin dives in to help with swimming lessons

Filed in Recent News by December 22, 2022

JOPLIN Higgins, local lawyer, said she was shocked to read Council had rejected a donation for Merriwa school children to learn to swim, so dived in with the cash to make it happen. 

“People drown in rural waterways, far more than on the coast, and it’s so critical to teach our rural kids how to swim and be safe in water,” said Ms Higgins.

Joplin Higgins OAM, said her team was glad to spread some Christmas cheer with Merriwa families.

“I was shocked to read Cr Burns blocked a foreshadowed amendment which could have allowed Councillors to vote on the swimming lessons separately and that ultimately only Cr Campbell and Cr Flaherty supported the donation for the swimming lessons,” she said.

“I couldn’t believe the Council voted not to make such a small donation to something this important, so I called the school to help,” she said. 

“Anne-Marie is clearly passionate about ensuring the 45 students at our small local school have the best start in life, enjoy the water and learn skills to keep them safe throughout their lives,” she said. 

“It was my absolute pleasure to support the great staff and students at the school,” she said.

“My team at Joplin Lawyers are all about supporting regional families, and were excited we could spread some Christmas cheer to some Merriwa families,” Joplin Higgins said.

Anne-Marie Peebles, principal of St Joseph’s Primary School in Merriwa said she was thrilled by the generous offer from Joplin Higgins to help with swimming lessons.

“I just want to say a huge thank you for her for the generous donation, but also for her understanding the importance of rural students having swimming lessons,” said Ms Peebles.

Karina Murphy helping Harrison Hawley learn to swim.

Ms Peebles who has been an AusSwim instructor for 30 years, said she keeps her registration to be able to help local children learn to swim and is passionate about water safety.

“I’m an AusSwim instructor, and there are other teachers who are also qualified so that we don’t have to pay for instructors,” said Ms Peebles.

“Many of these children don’t otherwise have the opportunity to take swimming lessons and it is really important that they learn how to be safe and comfortable in the water,” she said.

“And for the last five or six years we’ve had two lifeguards from Bondi come to Merriwa as part of the free Beach to Bush program, to talk to our students about beach safety,” she said.

“Many of our kids go to the beach in the summer and it’s rural people who drown at the beaches, so they teach them how to stay safe at the beach, the rules and how to read a beach,” she said.

All 45 students at the school have five weeks of swimming lessons at the end of the year, followed by their swimming carnival.

“The aim is that they all have the confidence to be in the swimming carnival, and it doesn’t matter what level they are all, they can use noodles or a kick-board, anything to help them participate and be part of it,” said Ms Peebles.

Melissa Clark, Rihanna Hunt, Svaannah Beeney and Sophie Williams having fun in the water.

The school had applied for a donation from Council of $642 to cover the costs of access to the pool on a Friday morning and the associated cost of having the pool lifeguard in attendance.

The lessons are run of a Wednesday and Friday morning, but because the pool is not open on a Friday morning, the school needed to pay for the pool to be available to them.

Previously, when the Council operated the swimming pool, these costs were not incurred.

All school children and teachers still pay for admission to the pool for lessons and teachers at the school are qualified to teach the children to swim.

As a Councillor on the Upper Hunter Shire Council, in my opinion the Council decision not to provide the donation was appalling, but I was heartened by the community response to the issue. I received many calls and messages following the story, including a call from Joplin Higgins asking how she could help.

The sentiments expressed in this article, are my own opinions and beliefs as a Councillor, which may not (in facto probably rarely do) reflect Councils position on the matter, but which as an elected representative I am supported under qualified privilege to express.

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