River survival skills for young West Aussies

20 January 2017

With the recent spate of drowning deaths across Australia, including one at Blackwall Reach in our Swan River just last weekend, Royal Life Saving Society WA is urging all Western Australians to ensure they have suitable swimming and survival skills to enjoy river activities safely.

a boy and girl on a pontoon in the river throwing ropes and rescue tubes to a boy in the water

Many people tend to underestimate the risks that exist at inland waterways, so it is important that everyone has the necessary skills to participate safely at these locations. In order to address this issue Royal Life Saving Society WA has held a Swim and Survive on the Swan program for children at the Ascot Kayak Club over the past two days.

The aim of the program is to raise awareness of the potential dangers present in the river environment, and teach children essential swimming and lifesaving skills via our Bronze Medallion program. The participants will go home with a Bronze Medallion qualification, and ready to act as a lifesaver in their local community! 

Australia Day is just around the corner, and many families and groups of friends will gather by the Swan River to celebrate. However, what many won’t realise is that the river contains a number of hidden dangers and poses a significant drowning risk, with the Swan River the 4th most dangerous black spot for drowning in Australia.

More than a quarter of the nation’s drowning deaths last financial year happened in rivers, creeks, lakes and dams, and of the 75 people who died at these inland waterway locations, 58 were in rivers and creeks.

An instructor on the sand by the river with children watching as she demonstrates how to use a spine board to rescue a person

Royal Life Saving Society WA CEO, Peter Leaversuch says “Although our rivers are beautiful, more people drown in rivers than anywhere else. The dangers are often lurking below the surface, you simply can’t see ice cold water, snags like tree branches or strong currents but they can be lethal. We’d encourage all parents to think carefully about their child’s swimming abilities before allowing them to play in and around the river these holidays, and if possible get them involved in our of our Swim and Survive on the Swan programs.”

Federal Member for Swan, Steve Irons is supportive of the program, “The electorate of Swan is bordered by the river and residents and visitors to the area spend much of their time around it. With the warmer months upon us it is important that children learn essential swimming and lifesaving skills to ensure that safety is their number one priority.”An instructor in the water with children gathered around as she demonstrates how to roll a victim over in the water

Ahead of Australia Day it’s also important to note that alcohol related drownings account for over a third (40%) of all river drowning deaths in Western Australia. Mr Irons says “As Australia Day celebrations take place, it is important for people to remember to take extra care, and I encourage you to remember that alcohol and water based activities don’t mix well.”

Royal Life Saving Society WA CEO Peter Leaversuch says “We are asking people to follow four simple steps to reduce their drowning risk in rivers: wear a lifejacket, avoid alcohol around water, never swim alone and learn how to save a life.” Royal Life Saving Society WA encourages all West Australians to enjoy the river safely this Australia Day and throughout the summer.

Swim and Survive on the Swan is part of Royal Life Saving’s Respect The River program, which is funded by the Federal Government and aims to raise awareness of the many hazards that underlie our rivers, lakes and streams. Any interested local organisations, such as Sea Scouts, Land Scouts, and Youth groups, who would like to take part in a Swim and Survive on the Swan program throughout the summer can contact our office on 9383 8200, for further information or click the link below.

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