Our History

Royal Life Saving Society WA is a not-for profit organisation, serving the community as the largest provider of water safety education in our state. Its foundation stems from the United Kingdom, where William Henry, a well-known champion swimmer, commenced water safety education in 1891.

In the 1890s drowning statistics in WA were appalling, with 14 drowning deaths across the state in 1890 when the population was just 46,290. By 1895, when the population was just over 101,000 there were 32 drowning deaths.

On the 13th May 1909 a meeting was held at the Amateur Sportsman's Club in Perth to address this growing issue. The meeting was attended by 16 people including representatives of the WA Amateur Swimming Association, St John Ambulance Association, the Perth Flying Squadron, the WA Rowing Club, the Amateur Boxing Club, the WA Football League and the State Schools' Athletic Association.

At the meeting Police Sergeant John Smith, who'd been passionately advocating for people to learn swimming and lifesaving skills, proposed that a "centre for the Royal Life Saving Society be formed in Perth." He believed the principles of lifesaving should be taught to men, women, children and sporting bodies.

The motion was unanimously passed and the Royal Life Saving Society WA was officially formed. Today the Royal Life Saving Society WA is a constitutional member of the Royal Life Saving Society Australia, but operates as an independently incorporated body.

Had the drowning rate remained as it was in 1909 we would have seen 243 drowning deaths in WA during the 2014-15 financial year, in reality that number was 39.  While one drowning death is one too many this statistic alone clearly shows the impact the Royal Life Saving Society WA has made on reducing the burden of drowning in the WA community.

Old black and white image of Coolgardie Swimming Pool with people standing along the edge and some in the water

William Henry

Sergeant John Smith