Preventing drowning in our migrant population

11 January 2017

The Royal Life Saving Society WA has been working hard in recent years to reduce drowning deaths in our multicultural communities. With the recent spike in drownings across Australia, and at least three of the victims coming from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities, this work has never been more important.

On average over the last 5 years in WA 36% of people who drowned were born overseas, and 58% of these were from a non-English speaking background. Of these drowning deaths 21% were new arrivals in Western Australia who had limited water safety knowledge and swimming skills.

Peter Leaversuch, CEO of Royal Life Saving WA, says its important for all members of our multicultural and migrant communities to understand the importance of learning vital Swim and Survive skills. “Many people from CaLD communities have never had the opportunity to participate in swimming and water safety programs that many Western Australians take for granted, which places them at a greater risk of drowning.”

Royal Life Saving WA recently showcased its Swim and Survive Access and Equity program, with a special event held at the Balga Leisureplex. The event was attended by major stakeholders in the program including Office of Multicultural Interest Executive Director Rebecca Ball and Chung Wah Association Vice President William Chi (both pictured below), along with local media. 

The Access and Equity program was developed to ensure that people from CaLD backgrounds have access to swimming and water safety programs. Mr Leaversuch says “Our concern is that too many people from CaLD communities are not participating in programs like this and are therefore not gaining the swimming and survival skills to participate safely, and that needs to change. This program aims to break down barriers to participation amongst CaLD communities such as cost and access to culturally appropriate venues and programs. It has been very successful with over 1,000 people participating in the program each year.”

24 children took part in the program at Balga Leisureplex last week and more programs are happening across the metropolitan area over the final two weeks of the school holidays.

Office of Multicultural Interests Executive Director, Rebecca Ball says “With more than one-third of Western Australians born overseas, we are one of Australia’s most culturally diverse States. Our cultural diversity is an asset and the State Government is committed to strengthening and building capacity in CaLD communities."

“Supporting this program through the Office of Multicultural Interests’ Community Grants Program allows us to address the needs of culturally diverse communities, while encouraging community engagement and cross-cultural understanding. Most importantly, we are helping families adjust to a new life in a new country and to safely participate in and enjoy our unique lifestyle. In many cases, our culturally diverse communities have hailed from countries where they have not had access to water in a recreational sense, nor learnt how to swim. Programs such as the Swim and Survive Access and Equity Program are vital to ensuring WA’s vibrant and successful multicultural community continues to thrive.”

BHP Billiton has also been a major partner in the Access and Equity Program for a number of years, supporting this and a range of other drowning prevention programs for high-risk communities across our state since 2003. This important partnership continues with BHP Billiton committing $1.425 million worth of funding over the next three years to ensure these programs continue to make an impact in the community. Dave Bunting, Manager Social Investment at BHP Billiton says “water recreation is a big part of the Western Australian lifestyle and water safety is an important issue in our community. We hope our support will improve the accessibility of water safety programs particularly for those with little or no swimming ability and instill water safety skills in CALD communities.”

Royal Life Saving Society WA is committed to taking a leadership role and working with these high-risk communities to develop their water skills and knowledge and ensure that every Western Australian has the opportunity to learn to Swim and Survive, regardless of their cultural background or where they were born. We are aiming to increase participation in these programs by 50% and are calling on all communities to get involved.

For more information on our programs for CaLD communities please click the link below.

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