No child should miss out
In 2011-12 there was an increase of 25% in drowning in 15-24 year olds. 86% of these drowning deaths are males, with many drowning whilst swimming, boating or fishing with friends in the nation's rivers, dams and at beaches.
For several years now, Royal Life Saving has highlighted research showing that many children are leaving primary school without being able to swim 50 metres or float for 2 minutes; skills Royal Life Saving describes as a basic right of every child living in Australia and mandatory if we are to halve drowning by 2020.
Whilst there is no comprehensive analysis of achievement levels across every State and Territory, where we have investigated achievement rates they point to a problem. We published these results in the report titled No Child to Miss Out: Basic swimming & water safety education - The right of all Australian children.
Royal Life Saving believes that there are groups of children who are swimming better and younger than in previous generations. These are children whose parents value and recognise the importance of swimming and water safety, have ready access to quality swim schools and instructors, and have the financial means to afford lessons and other activities that build confidence and skills in the water.
However, we also see many children and many communities for which swimming and water safety is not accessible, not a priority, too costly or who are simply unaware of the benefits of programs such as Swim and Survive. These concerns are well reflected in the Australian Water Safety Strategy, and should be a concern to us all. It is Royal Life Saving's long standing belief that no child should miss out on learning to swim and survive, that is behind the call for; compulsory swimming and water safety lessons in Australian primary schools; support for parents struggling with the financial burden of lessons; and funds for urgently needed programs to target rural, Indigenous and multicultural communities.
Royal Life Saving believes that parents, community organisations and the swim school industry should all commit to making swimming and water safety compulsory for all children living in Australia and has launched a national petition to gauge the level of feeling across the community. Royal Life Saving will raise the petition results with Governments across the country.
Royal Life Saving believes a national benchmark of swimming and water safety skills needs to be urgently established and supported by all Governments. This would provide guidance to those that conduct and participate in programs across the country.
Royal Life Saving believes that reinvestment in long standing school based and vacation programs needs to be a major priority. These programs have provided generations of Australians with affordable, water safety focused swimming lessons and are something we should all be proud of. They provide a form of safety net, particularly for those living in regional areas or who have trouble affording other programs. However, in the current economic and social environment many of these programs are under pressure.
Parents and schools often complain that there isn't a suitable pool nearby, or that there is a shortage of instructors in regional areas. Royal Life Saving supports calls for greater investment in ageing aquatic facilities across Australia. It believes that existing programs such as the Active After Schools program may also provide opportunities for improved access to programs.
Royal Life Saving is grateful for the support of UNCLE TOBYS to raise funds to provide Swim and Survive courses free of charge for children from a range of backgrounds where they might otherwise miss out on lessons.
The Australian Federal Government and Governments across Australia also play an important and valuable role in supporting swimming and water safety. Australian Water Safety Council member organisations such as AUSTSWIM and Surf Life Saving Australia also play a role.
We welcome the support and collaboration of schools, parents and industry across Australia. Together we hope to see a day when no child misses out on learning how to Swim and Survive.