Swim and Survive skills for all West Aussies

13 January 2016
As West Australian families spend time in and around water this summer the Royal Life Saving Society WA wants to ensure all members of our community have the Swim and Survive skills necessary to enjoy our lifestyle safely.

A recent review of drowning deaths in Western Australia highlights that people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) backgrounds are drastically over-represented. The report reveals that almost 40% of drowning deaths between 2003 and 2013 involved people born overseas with half of these deaths involving people from non-English speaking countries.

Peter Leaversuch, CEO of Royal Life Saving WA says "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 today launched its Swim and Survive Access and Equity program at Balga Leisurepark, in partnership with principal community partner BHP Billiton, the Office of Multicultural Interests and the Department of Sport and Recreation.

The program was developed to ensure that people from CaLD backgrounds have access to swimming and water safety programs. Peter Leaversuch says "Our concern is that too many people from CaLD communities are not participating in these programs and 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." 

Citizenship and Multicultural Interests Minister Mike Nahan attended today's launch and 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."

The Royal Life Saving Society WA and BHP Billiton have shared a long and successful partnership delivering a range of water safety drowning prevention programs for high-risk communities in WA including the Swim and Survive Access and Equity program. Since 2003, BHP Billiton has invested over $2.3 million towards the delivery of these programs and has recently committed a further $2.4 million over the next five years to ensure that these programs continue to make an impact in the community.

Mr Richard O'Connell, Senior Manager, Community at BHP Billiton says "Water recreation is a big part of the Western Australian lifestyle and water safety is an important safety issue in regional and remote areas. We hope our renewed partnership will improve the accessibility of water safety programs and include more members of the community in swimming education, so that our communities become safer places to live and work."

Royal Life Saving 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.