Inland waterway survival skills for at risk children

16 April 2018

Aboriginal children in WA, aged 5-14 years, are 8.6 times more likely to die from drowning than non-Aboriginal children. These children often enjoy recreating in inland waterways, which they have ready access to in regional and remote areas. This means it’s vital that we ensure they have the Swim and Survive skills to stay safe in these locations, which can be unpredictable.

Children with their swim instructors learning about lifejackets at Champion LakesAustralia’s inland waterways continue to be the leading location for fatal drowning across the Australian population, accounting for 97 deaths in 2016/17, almost one third of the nation’s total drowning toll. This included 68 at rivers and creeks, and 29 at lakes and dams.

In Western Australia, there was a 23% increase in the number of deaths occurring at inland waterways compared to the previous year.

The Royal Life Saving Society WA is working hard to address these statistics, by focusing attention on swimming and water safety programs for Aboriginal and other at-risk children and youth. This week we're holding a school holiday Swim and Survive program for at-risk young people at Champion Lakes.

The aim of the program, which is supported by the City of Armadale, Save the Children and Nyoongar Wellbeing and Sports, is to raise awareness of the potential dangers present in the inland waterway environment, and teach Aboriginal children in the area essential swimming and lifesaving skills via our Bronze Medallion program.Children wearing lifejackets in the water at Champion Lakes

Royal Life Saving Society WA Senior Manager Swimming and Water Safety Education Trent Hotchkin says programs like this are vital. “We’re determined to ensure that all West Australians have the necessary skills to participate safely at all aquatic locations. The fact that Aboriginal children are at such a high risk of drowning compared to other West Australian children is a stark reminder that we need to focus our efforts on teaching them swimming and water safety skills.”

Champion Lakes is in the City of Armadale where, on average, one person drowns each year. Federal Member for Burt, Matt Keogh is proud to be a Drowning Prevention Ambassador for Royal Life Saving WA, and says programs like this are vital.

Federal Member for Burt Matt Keogh with program coordinators Sam Bell and Emily Balcombe and children from the Champion Lakes Swim and Survive program“All life is precious and especially our childrens’, so as a new dad, working to prevent drownings by raising awareness, promoting swimming training and making sure we always supervise our kids is really important to me.”

“In our community, we have many people who have not grown up in a swimming culture. While we aren’t close to the beach, many enjoy our lakes and rivers as well as the many backyard pools in our suburbs. Understanding water safety across many different environments is therefore very important.”

Royal Life Saving WA encourages all West Australians to stay safe in our inland waterways throughout the year. Senior Manager Swimming and Water Safety Education Trent Hotchkin says “we are asking people to follow four simple steps to reduce their drowning risk in inland waterways: wear a lifejacket, avoid alcohol around water, never swim alone and learn how to save a life.”