Drowning remains one of the leading causes of preventable death in children, and reducing childhood drowning remains a worldwide challenge. recent data from the Royal Life Saving Society WA shows 18 children aged 5 -14 years drowned in our state over the past 10 years. Over the same period there's been a 30% increase in the number of non-fatal drowning incidents with 85 children hospitalised. 22% of these children were from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) backgrounds.

Alarmingly, across all age groups there were 128 drowning deaths involving people born overseas between July 2003 and June 2013. This represents 39% of all drowning deaths in that period. Of these 47% were from a non-English speaking country.

A key objective of Royal Life Saving is to introduce the Swim and Survive swimming and water safety program to all cultural groups across WA. Research has found that within these groups, there are alarmingly low participation levels in swimming and water safety programs, while their awareness of the importance of swimming and water safety and lifesaving skills is significantly lower than the rest of the population. This contributes to their over-representation in drowning statistics.  

As a part of the WA Swim and Survive fund Royal Life Saving WA developed a nice week Swim and Survive program, in partnership with the Metropolitan Migrant Resource Centre, Mirrabooka Senior High School, and local primary and high schools who identified children that were at risk of not learning how to swim.

From February to April 2016, 104 children participated in the Swim and Survive program held at Mirrabooka Senior High School. These children came from 17 different cultural backgrounds including Burmese (Karen), Sudanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Italian, Afghan, Chinese, Persian, Macedonian, Iranian, Somalian, Syrian, Ethiopian, Djibouti, Zimbabwean and Indian.

Royal Life Saving Society WA CEO Peter Leaversuch says, "we are committed to teaching every child to Swim and Survive, and 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, no matter who they are or where they live."

On the final day of the lessons, the program culminated in a community celebration where participants were provided the opportunity to showcase their newly acquired water safety skills. The day was well supported by the community and featured on Chanel 7, 9 and 10 news bulletins. The family event coincided with Harmony Week; an annual event that celebrates cultural, religious and ethnic diversity.  

The Harmony day event saw children involved in the program enjoy not only their swimming lessons but also the Swim and Survive Slip and slide as well as a special BBQ lunch. The children's parents expressed their heartfelt gratitude that their children could learn such vital swimming and water safety skills that will help them participate safely in water activities in the future

Royal Life Saving has established the Swim and Survive Fund which utilises donations from individuals, community organisations, corporate supporters and Royal Life Saving Partner facilities across Australia, to increase access to swimming and water safety education for these at risk children.