Royal Life Saving welcomes today’s announcement of the Labor Party Swim Smart Policy that would provide additional funding for water safety education for all Australian school children.
Too many Australian children miss out on a basic swimming and water safety education. This places them at increased risk of drowning throughout adolescence and adulthood, impacts their ability to enjoy our waterways, and to swim for fun, fitness and good health.
Royal Life Saving research shows that children from indigenous, economically disadvantaged, rural, migrant and refugee communities are less likely to learn swimming and water safety skills, but that they catch up quickly if given the opportunity.
Achievement of National Swimming and Water Safety Framework benchmarks vary greatly. Royal Life Saving studies estimate that 20% to 60% of children leave primary school not achieving the basic Year Four benchmark; being able to swim 50m, float for several minutes and with vital water safety knowledge.
This challenge is complex and requires a multifaceted response with collaboration across Local, State and Federal Governments, the swimming and water safety sector, community groups and parents.
Providing increased funding to support State and Territory Government school and vacation programs is important. This policy must ensure that State and Territory Governments expand on their existing commitments to water safety.
For the past two years, Royal Life Saving has hosted the National Swimming and Water Safety Education Symposium aimed at building a national approach to swimming and water safety education for all Australian children by:
Strengthening school and vacation swimming and water safety programs in the community;
Revising the National Swimming and Water Safety Framework;
Setting and reporting progress against a Minimum National Benchmark;
Devising strategies to increase access and participation for those ‘at risk’;
Improving availability and access to aquatic facilities;
Increasing the swimming and lifesaving skills of secondary school students.
The Labor Party Swim Smart policy addresses many of these objectives.
Royal Life Saving is pleased that this new policy commitment builds upon existing water safety funding arrangements.
The work of Royal Life Saving, Surf Life Saving and AUSTSWIM is critical to preventing drowning and promoting water safety across our inland waterways, beaches and swimming pools.
Drowning is an issue that impacts all life stages, many activities and locations. The National Summer Drowning Toll sits at 67 lives lost to drowning around the country. It is essential that water safety policy acknowledges the Australian Water Safety Strategy, the collaboration that exists across the sector and supports our capacity to identify issues, solve those problems and implement programs in a targeted manner and with community support.