Royal Life Saving WA Welcomes Labor Commitment to Water Safety

21 January 2019

Royal Life Saving WA welcomes the recent announcement from the Federal Labor Party, promising $46 million to implement a Swim Smart Policy in the lead-up to the Federal Election. The funding would provide additional support to ensure all Australian school children have access to water safety education during the primary school years.

Here in Western Australian our State Government has had a longstanding commitment to swimming and water safety education, with in-term swimming lessons and VacSwim making a big impact for more than 100 years. Royal Life Saving WA is proud to work hand in hand with the State Government to assist with these programs and their reach throughout WA.

However, too many Australian children still miss out on a basic swimming and water safety education, with those in remote areas and at non-government schools often unable to take part in this programming. This places them at increased risk of drowning throughout adolescence and adulthood, impacts their ability to enjoy our waterways, and to swim for fun, fitness and good health.

Royal Life Saving research shows that children from indigenous, economically disadvantaged, rural, migrant and refugee communities are less likely to learn swimming and water safety skills, but that they catch up quickly if given the opportunity

Achievement of National Swimming and Water Safety Framework benchmarks vary greatly. Royal Life Saving studies estimate that 20% to 60% of children leave primary school not achieving the basic Year Four benchmark; being able to swim 50m, float for several minutes and with vital water safety knowledge.

This challenge is complex and requires a multifaceted response with collaboration across Local, State and Federal Governments, the swimming and water safety sector, community groups and parents.

Providing increased funding to support State and Territory Government school and vacation programs is important, and will help State and Territory Governments to expand on their existing commitments to water safety.

Our hope would be that the funding will better enable non-government schools to take part in in-term swimming and water safety programs, ‘logistics costs’ such as transport, pool entry, and fund FIFO teams to remote, CaLD, Indigenous and disabled communities where a bespoke program and specialist instructors are needed to enable programs to be viable.

For the past two years, Royal Life Saving has hosted the National Swimming and Water Safety Education Symposium, aimed at building a national approach to swimming and water safety education for all Australian children by:

  • Strengthening school and vacation swimming and water safety programs in the community; 
  • Revising the National Swimming and Water Safety Framework; 
  • Setting and reporting progress against a Minimum National Benchmark; • Devising strategies to increase access and participation for those ‘at risk’; 
  • Improving availability and access to aquatic facilities; 
  • Increasing the swimming and lifesaving skills of secondary school students.

Royal Life Saving is pleased that the Labor Party’s Swim Smart policy commitment builds upon existing water safety funding arrangements. The work of Royal Life Saving, Surf Life Saving and AUSTSWIM is critical to preventing drowning and promoting water safety across our swimming pools, inland waterways and beaches.

Drowning is an issue that impacts all life stages, many activities and locations. So far this summer 70 people have lost their life to drowning across Australia, including five in WA. More work needs to be done throughout our community to ensure all Australians have access to swimming and water safety education, and any additional funding that makes this possible will help to prevent this tragic loss of life across our nation.