Swim and Survive is the key to eliminating childhood drowning

2 November 2016

Royal Life Saving Society WA is leading efforts to reduce drowning in our community, by working to ensure all Western Australians possess swimming, water safety, survival and rescue skills.a young girl in the water enjoying her Swim and Survive lesson at Bold Park

According to the 2015-16 National Drowning Report 280 people drowned across Australia, 37 of these in WA. Amongst children aged 0-14 there were 26 drowning deaths nationwide. Each of these deaths represents a family impacted in the most tragic way by drowning. 

Here in WA there were no drowning deaths in the 5-14 age group last financial year, and while this is a fantastic result it is not a time to drop our guard. Already this financial year two children aged 5-14 have lost their lives to drowning in our state.

Royal Life Saving Society WA’s Senior Manager Swimming and Water Safety Education, Trent Hotchkin, says “Royal Life Saving is committed to teaching every child to Swim and Survive, and we recognise that this task is all the more important given WA’s climate and lifestyle that encourages so much activity in and on the water. The challenge we face is to ensure each new generation acquires these skills, and no-one misses out.” 

3 children in the water kicking on their back to their instructor at Bold ParkFormer professional rugby league player Matt Fuller is happy to advocate for the Swim and Survive program, with his own children learning swimming and water safety skills from a young age. “In a state like Western Australia we as parents need to ensure our children have these essential skills to stay safe. Our active WA lifestyle sees us spend a lot of time in the pool and at the beach and as parents my wife and I recognised that our children need strong swim and survive skills to fully enjoy that.”

"Learning to Swim and Survive has given my children an enormous amount of confidence, they've met new friends through swimming programs, they can relax and have fun in the water, and it's great for their health and fitness as well!  Also, as a parent I have the confidence that, although I still need to watch my kids int he water, I know they have the survival skills to get themselves out of trouble and it's great to have that reassurance."

Swim and Survive is a broad and balanced program teaching a range of skills and knowledge to develop swimming, water safety, survival and basic rescue skills. The aim of the program is to teach children not only how to swim but when and where to do so safely, and to provide participants with a platform for life-long participation in a wide variety of aquatic pursuits such as surfing, swimming, canoeing, sailing and lifesaving.

Mr Hotchkin says the program has clearly shown its worth. “Since the introduction of Swim and Survive in 1982 drowning rates in Australia for 5-14 year olds have fallen from 7.1 to 0.85 per 100,000 population. This reduction is probably not equalled or bettered in any part of the world. Teaching children personal survival skills and water safety is the most important investment the community can make to reducing drowning, and has proven to be effective, with children now the least likely of all age groups to drown.” Matt Fuller, Bold Park Swim School Co-ordinator Courtney Aylett and Royal Life Saving Society WA's Trent Hotchkin by the pool at Bold Park

Matt Fuller with a young boy in the water at Bold ParkDuring 2015-16 195,615 children took part in the Swim and Survive program across our state, learning vital skills to be safe in, on and around the water. However there are still too many children missing out, especially those from diverse cultural backgrounds, disadvantaged circumstances and regional areas.

National Drowning Report figures show people in WA’s regional areas continue to be over-represented in drowning deaths, with a drowning rate 3.5 times higher than the Perth metropolitan area. Royal Life Saving, in partnership with Principal Community Partner BHP Billiton and the Department of Sport and Recreation, is working hard to address this issue, ensuring Swim and Survive programs are made available to children across the state through the Access and Equity Program, which provides quality swimming and water safety lessons for children experiencing social or economic disadvantage. 

Mr Hotchkin says “We are encouraging all parents to enrol their children in a Swim and Survive program at their local Royal Life Saving Endorsed Swim School, as it’s the most effective way to eliminate childhood drowning.” 

To find your nearest Endorsed Swim School click the link below.