Partnership enables remote children to learn vital swimming skills

16 September 2021

More than 1500 children across 17 remote community schools throughout the Pilbara and Kimberley regions of our state have taken part in in-term swimming and water safety programs in the past three years, thanks to an important service agreement between Royal Life Saving WA and the Department of Education.

Children in regional communities often miss out on the benefit of school swimming lessons, mainly due to a lack of swim instructors to run these programs in regional areas, but also a lack of access to suitable locations for lessons, timetabling issues with local pools and cultural barriers to participation. Royal Life Saving WA and the Department of Education have worked collaboratively to address workforce challenges in regional areas through a number of arrangements from fully outsourcing the delivery of programs, through the supply of contract staff from Perth and other regions, to supporting Department of Education staff to deliver programs where supplementary instructors are needed. We’re also working to ensure local instructors are trained up in regional towns to conduct the lessons into the future.

Statistics show that overall participation rates in swimming lessons are significantly lower in regional and remote parts of WA than the Perth metro area, and Royal Life Saving WA’s Kimberley Development Officer Glenn Taylor says this is of particular concern in his region. “The north-west region recorded a participation rate that is 5.8 percent lower than the rest of the state. Given that people in regional areas are 2.3 times more likely to drowning than those in the metro area, and that the drowning rate amongst Aboriginal Australians is twice that of non-Aboriginal Australians, the work being done through our partnership with the Department of Education is vital in addressing these statistics.”

The communities involved in this program include the remote Aboriginal communities of Jigalong, Yandeyarra, Bidyadanga, Burringurrah, Warmun, Balgo and Kalumburu, and ten schools across the Fitzroy Valley. A total of 1537 children have taken part in the past three years, including 72 students from Luurnpa Catholic School (Balgo) and Kalumburu Remote Community School who participated in swimming lessons for the very first time!

Mr Taylor says the program has seen dozens of swim instructors travel to these regional areas. “Many of these instructors have shown incredible flexibility to ensure the swimming lessons are run in a way that is relevant to the local community. This has included conducting lessons in the local river, after recognising that many in these communities enjoy recreating in the rivers when they are flowing so they wanted to ensure the children could adapt their swimming skills to the river environment. Programs are also now held year-round in communities where pools are open, rather than just in Term One and Four as was previously the case.”

Royal Life Saving WA will continue this important work over the coming months, as many seasonal pools re-open later this month following their annual shutdown. We’re pleased to partner with the Department of Education in providing this vital programming that really does save lives in regional and remote Western Australia.

You can read more about our work in regional and remote WA at the link below.

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