Pilbara children showcase swimming and lifesaving skills

16 November 2017
Recent Royal Life Saving Society National Drowning Report figures show people in WA’s regional areas continue to be over-represented in drowning deaths, with a drowning rate 3.7 times higher than the Perth metro area.Aboriginal children in red Spirit Carnival t shirts on the grass at the Gratwick Aquatic Centre

Last year two children aged 5-14 drowned in WA, both of these in regional areas. Of the 42 drowning deaths across all ages in WA last year 28% happened in inland waterways such as rivers, creeks, streams, lakes, dams and lagoons, which is a 23% increase on the previous year. Children in regional WA have such ready access to these inland waterways that it is vital we ensure they have the swimming and water safety skills to stay safe in these locations, which can be unpredictable.

6 Aboriginal girls with their place ribbons by the pool at Gratwick Aquatic CentreThe Royal Life Saving Society WA's Swim and Survive program is working hard to address these statistics, by focusing attention on swimming and lifesaving programs for children in regional and remote areas, with a special focus on remote aboriginal communities.

Today, in partnership with Swimming WA and the YMCA, Royal Life Saving is holding the Spirit Carnival at the Gratwick Aquatic Centre in Port Hedland.

The carnival has given 110 children from seven different schools an opportunity to get together and showcase the swimming and lifesaving skills they have learnt throughout the year via the Swim and Survive and Swim for Fruit programs, which are supported by Principal Community Partner BHP, Healthway and the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries. 6 boys by the pool with their place ribbons at Gratwick Aquatic centre

The schools involved include Strelley Community School, Yandeyarra Remote Community School, Jigalong Remote Community School, St Cecilia’s Catholic Primary School, Port Hedland Primary School, Cassia Primary School and South Hedland Primary School. The children collectively travelled more than 900 kilometres to attend the event, with support from Hedland Buslines who provided discounted travel.

The interactive carnival has seen the children take part in swimming races, traditional boat races and lifesaving activities, while also being treated to a special BBQ lunch - provided and cooked by local company Orontide - and overnight accommodation.

Aboriginal children in traditional rubber boats in the pool at Gratwick Aquatic centreRoyal Life Saving Society WA’s Senior Manager Swimming and Water Safety Education, Trent Hotchkin says the hope is that the children involved in this carnival will make a real difference in the future of their communities.

“Our desire is to see these children lead a generational change, learning skills to become the future lifesavers in remote and regional WA. We want to give these children the opportunity to not only learn skills to keep themselves safe while in, on and around water, but also to equip them to encourage all community members to develop lifesaving swimming skills.”