Lotterywest funding brings vital water safety programs to at-risk communities

5 October 2021
Water safety awareness and the ability to swim are central to the Western Australian lifestyle, as our communities love to spend time in, on and around the water. Tragically though, 40% of drownings recorded in our state involve people who were born overseas. Research shows a lack of participation in swimming and water safety education classes, and a lack of culturally appropriate access to these programs are contributing factors.

City of Swan Mayor Kevin Bailey, Minister for Sport and Recreation Dr Tony Buti and Royal Life Saving WA CEO Peter Leaversuch with a Lotterywest chequeAs we work to address these issues Royal Life Saving WA recently received $200,000 in funding from Lotterywest to build water safety skills and reduce the risk of drowning for children and young people in at-risk communities, including emerging multicultural communities in the Perth metropolitan area, over the next two years. Minister for Sport and Recreation, Dr Tony Buti, says the programming this funding will support is vital for our multicultural community. "The Royal Life Saving Swim and Survive Access and Equity Program provides essential skills and knowledge that many Western Australians may take for granted. Having access to beautiful beaches, rivers and public pools, is one of the unique privileges of living in Western Australia. By supporting Western Australians from culturally diverse backgrounds to feel connected in this typical representation of the Australian way of life, we are also assisting with their sense of belonging. It is a great pleasure to present the Royal Life Saving WA with this Lotterywest grant certificate for $200,000, to assist them in carrying out this very important work."

During these school holidays Royal Life Saving WA is working with the Perth Myanmar Learning Centre to enable more than 30 children and adults from the Myanmar community to take part in swimming and water safety classes. The lessons are being held at Swan Active Ballajura, thanks to this Lotterywest funding, and some participants will learn to swim for the very first time. 

Western Australia is home to people from more than 200 countries, speaking approximately 270 languages and practising more than 130 religious’ faiths. Perth also has one of the highest proportions of people born overseas of all Australian capital cities. Many new arrivals to Western Australia having poor or non-existent swimming and water safety skills, while Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) children have been found to have lower levels of swimming and water safety skills and are less likely to achieve the skills identified to safely participate in water activities due to various barriers including cost, access, medical conditions and cultural issues.

For more than a decade Royal Life Saving WA has been working with many CaLD communities to address some of these issues, successfully implementing specialised children’s, women’s and men’s swimming programs for these communities and addressing many of these barriers to participation. Recently we have identified three key emerging CaLD communities - South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Burma (Myanmar) – whose populations are growing in WA and who have so far yet to be engaged in these swimming and water safety programmes.

Royal Life Saving WA CEO, Peter Leaversuch, says the new funding from Lotterywest will enable the organisation to build programming for these communities that meets their specific needs. “The objective of this project is to deliver culturally appropriate programs, co-designed by these communities, including swimming and water safety lessons to children and adults, water safety talks to youth and Heart Beat Club basic first aid sessions to parents and carers of young children. Our programs will be tailored to engage communities with their local aquatic centres and to lead social impact efforts to build these aquatic centres as a community hub, introducing participants to a range of other activities the centres have to offer, meeting like-minded people and transitioning them into other wellness or leisure activities after the conclusion of the project programs.”

A similar approach will be taken in the Kimberley communities of Balgo and Kalumburu, where the rate of participation in school swimming programs is 5.8 times lower than the rest of WA. Our approach will see programs developed in collaboration with these communities and making use of the newly built swimming pools there which are managed by Royal Life Saving WA.

Royal Life Saving WA is grateful for the support of Lotterywest and looks forward to seeing this new project break down the existing barriers to participation in swimming and water safety education for these communities in key target areas of the Perth metropolitan area and the Kimberley region.