Spirit Carnival 2021

11 November 2021

Children getting ready to start a swimming raceAs Royal Life Saving WA works to address the over-representation of Aboriginal children in drowning statistics, we today held our 7th Annual Pilbara Spirit Swimming and Lifesaving Carnival at the South Hedland Aquatic Centre. The carnival was part of a two-day Pilbara Aquatic Festival, thanks to funding provided by Principal Community Partner BHP, which also saw children and adults take part in a variety of activities including pool lifesaving development sessions for children and swim instructors. Meath Hammond, BHP Head of Corporate Affairs WA, says this important partnership with Royal Life Saving WA is one that is making a real difference in drowning prevention right across the state. “BHP is proud to have played a small part in Royal Life Saving’s bigger story through delivering vital programs to regional and vulnerable communities, training lifesavers and creating safer aquatic places for all Western Australians.”An Aboriginal boy in the pool

Royal Life Saving WA research shows that Aboriginal children between the ages of 5 and 14 are 8.6 times more likely to be involved in a fatal drowning than non-Aboriginal children in our state. Overall, half of children who fatally drown were Aboriginal. These incidents were most likely to occur at inland waterways such as rivers, while participating in a range of aquatic activities including swimming, fishing and paddling. As we aim to turn these statistics around Royal Life Saving WA works throughout the year to ensure swimming and lifesaving programs are made available for children in regional and remote areas, with a special focus on remote aboriginal communities.

An Aboriginal boy at the Spirit CarnivalThe Pilbara Spirit Swimming and Lifesaving Carnival gives the children an opportunity to get together and showcase the swimming and lifesaving skills they have learnt throughout the year via the Swim and Survive and Swim for Fruit programs, which are supported by Principal Community Partner BHP, Healthway, and the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries. Royal Life Saving WA Senior Manager Education, Trent Hotchkin, says these swimming and water safety programs are essential. “Learning to Swim and Survive is a vital life skill that all Western Australian children need to safely participate on, in and around water. Building swimming and water safety skills in young children is vital work and the single most important investment we can make as a community to prevent drowning.”A group of children at the Spirit Carnival

The Spirit Carnival is extremely popular with schools across the region, and 100 children from nine different schools attended this year. Through the carnival we're making significant inroads into drowning prevention amongst Aboriginal children in regional WA. The schools involved in this year’s event included Yandeyarra Remote Community School, Baler Primary School, Cassia Primary School, Port Hedland Primary School, Roebourne Primary School, St Cecilia's Catholic PS, Strelley Community School, Punmu Remote Community School and Kunawarritji Remote Community School, with the children collectively travelling more than 1700 kilometres to attend!

West Coast Eagles, Newman and Port Hedland High School volunteersThe day enabled the children to come together in a fun environment to participate in an interactive event encouraging physical activity and learning valuable lifesaving skills, with West Coast Eagles players Luke Shuey, Mikayla Bowen, and Charlotte Thomas, along with students from Newman and Hedland Senior High Schools volunteering their time to assist in running the events. Royal Life Saving WA Pilbara Development Officer Lauren Thompson says the event was more than just your average school swimming carnival.

“The children took part in the usual swimming races, but also traditional boat races and lifesaving activities, along with having an opportunity to try water polo and artistic swimming. Importantly they were also able to meet and interact with children from other communities in the Pilbara, it’s a real coming together to have fun experience. To round out the carnival the participants were treated to a special lunch. The wide range of activities involved has made the Spirit Carnival extremely popular with schools across the region!”Aboriginal elders with Royal Life Saving WA's Tim Turner

Mr Hotchkin says the hope is that the children involved in this carnival will make a real difference in the future of their communities.“By enabling these children to take part in our Swim and Survive swimming and water safety program and enjoy events like the Spirit Carnival we hope to see them lead a generational change, learning skills to become the future lifesavers in remote and regional WA. We want to give these children the opportunity to not only learn skills to keep themselves safe while in, on and around water, but also to equip them to encourage all community members to develop lifesaving swimming skills.”

Read more about our work in WA's Aboriginal communities at the link below.

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