Fiji Community Drowning Prevention Program

Three – time Olympic swimming champion Shane Gould, and her husband, international swimming expert, Milton Nelms, are conducting swim clinics with the villages along the Coral Coast. The villages will be part of a pilot program designed to assist Island nations, including Fiji, improve their swimming techniques in their natural swimming environments as well as techniques that can save their lives in the water.

Gould who spent most of her young childhood in Fiji before winning 5 medals at the 1972 Olympics, was alarmed with the increasing number of drowning cases in Fiji. These alarming statistics encouraged Shane and Nelms to create a swimming program specific to Fiji. She and Nelms have been studying and researching the causes of accidental drowning in the country in collaboration with local academics. Katarina and Dr. Donasiano Ruru of the Fijian National University and University of South Pacific, will join the couple to conduct research on the clinics.

The villages of Malevu and Korotogo have been chosen to take part in the pilot swim clinics which will include follow-up village feedback on the success of the clinics. The pilot project will include at least 3 visits in the first year and will contribute to the further development of this important program.

The two key areas of the program are:

  1. awareness of hidden safety risks in the village environments; and
  2. being able to swim with control, and with less effort.

Swimming expert Milton Nelms says, “Fijians have a strong attraction to the water and to swimming. Shane and I believe that the worldwide drowning problem originates partially from an aggressive and high-energy style that people learn when first swimming. This swimming style becomes tiring after a short period of time. Many tragic accidents in the water happen because people simply run out of energy. Shane and I try to change the image of good swimming to a calmer and more efficient style”.

Shane and Milt have previously carried out research with student schoolteachers in Fiji from 2005-2010. “Our experiences in Fiji is that our approach makes sense to people and they learn it quickly”, says Nelms. “The clinics will be held where the local villagers normally learn to swim, and where they swim and play”.

“Our program is for Fijians and is about understanding water safety and producing better swimmers in a country surrounded by water. There is a hidden, but a huge demand for better swimmers, for Fiji’s tourism industry,” added Shane Gould.

The Coral Coast pilot program has come together with the assistance and support of Outrigger on the Lagoon ∙ Fiji, the Australian High Commission and Pacific Island Trade & Invest.

Peter Hopgood, General Manager of Outrigger on the Lagoon . Fiji stated that he was thrilled that we could invite Shane Gould and Milt Nelms to Fiji to assist with the drowning prevention campaign. “There are far too many children dying in Fiji from drowning and we seriously need to do something about it!”


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