Indigenous Programs

Our research shows that Aboriginal Australians are four times more likely to die from drowning than other Australians.

To reduce this high incidence rate of drowning among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) people, programs have been created and delivered across Australia by Royal Life Saving State and Territory Member Organisations. Programs include specialised aquatic training to members of ATSI communities while encouraging them to participate in aquatics and to consider the aquatics industry as a profession.

The following represents some recent and ongoing programs across Australia. 

Indigenous Communities 

  • Australian Capital Territory - Ngadyung Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Aquatic Recreation Program 
  • New South Wales - Indigenous Aquatic Safety Training Unit
  • Northern Territory - Remote Pools Project

Program details have been outlined below.

Australian Capital Territory - Ngadyung – Aquatic Recreation Program

Ndadyung“ACT's Aboriginal Aquatic Recreation Program, “Ngadyung”, has been hosted by Royal Life Saving ACT for over 6 years and was initially established with funding from the ACT Health Department. Ngadyung now has many local and national supporters including The ACT Government and The Club Group.”

The principle training component of Ngadyung – the Ngunnawal word for ‘water’ – is Royal Life Saving Society – Australia’s Swim and Survive course. More than 500 local ATSI children have participated in the program since its inception in 2007 and now have essential swimming and survival skills which they will retain for life.

Ngadyung-Participant Apart from the Swim and Survive courses, which are offered for babies, children, and adults, there are additional training opportunities available including qualifications in Senior First Aid and CPR; Bronze Medallion and Bronze Star; Pool Lifeguarding; and the Austswim – Teaching of Swimming and Water Safety course.

While these additional courses are highly worthwhile in their own right, they also form the basis of the required professional qualifications and create access to a career pathway for those members of ATSI communities interested in pursuing a career in the aquatics industry.

Ndagyung-Participant Ngadyung is governed by a Steering Committee that provides advice to the Ngadyung Project Officer and Royal Life Saving ACT. The Ngadyung Project Officer liaises closely with both the Steering Committee and with local ATSI organisations to ensure the relevance of the training opportunities provided to the ACT ATSI community.

Enrolment Details

Click here to download and complete the Ngadyung Enrolment Form - Aged 4 and Over

New South Wales - Indigenous Aquatic Safety Training Unit

 Community Development - Emerton Leisure Centre

In May 2009, Royal Life Saving NSW implemented the Indigenous Aquatic Safety Training Unit (IASTU) to deliver training initiatives to various Indigenous communities in NSW.

The IASTU provides vital water safety education and skills to Indigenous communities, including metropolitan, regional and remote locations.


 Community Development - Indigenous Programs

The IASTU delivers vocational training with a focus on safety and aquatic programs, providing opportunities for Indigenous participants to gain qualifications in First Aid, Bronze Medallion, Pool Lifeguard, Austswim, and the Certificate III in Aquatics.

The IASTU ensures appropriately qualified and skilled Indigenous candidates are available to provide key water safety and lifesaving initiatives to their local community, whilst gaining employment within the aquatic industry.

Community Development - NASCA

Since the training commenced, more than a thousand Indigenous participants have gained vocational qualifications, with many securing employment within the aquatic industry. These candidates have been encouraged to promote the importance of aquatic safety within their communities and to share their newly acquired knowledge and skills with others. 

Proudly Supported by:

Australian Government - Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport    Emerton Leisure Centre   National Centre of Indigenous Excellence

AUSTSWIM Teacher of Swimming and Water Safety

Funding was received during 2011-12 financial year from the Indigenous Sport and Active Recreation Program to conduct AUSTSWIM Teacher of Swimming and Water Safety course for Indigenous candidates. Ninety-five participants from Western NSW, Sydney and the Illawarra have completed training thus far with participants encouraged to find employment within their local area and to pass on their skills and knowledge to other Indigenous community members.

Certificate III in Aquatics

In addition, funds were also received during the 2011-12 financial year through the Elsa Dixon Aboriginal Employment Program for 25 Indigenous candidates to participate in the Certificate III in Aquatics program.

Northern Territory - Remote Pools Project

Royal Life Saving continues to work with communities, Local, Territory and Federal Governments to build a more sustainable future for swimming pools in remote areas of the Northern Territory.

Work in this area is driven by our vision:

  • Remote swimming pools are managed by indigenous people who perform a variety of roles including facility management, supervision, instruction and health promotion
  • Remote swimming pools are the hub of community activity including effective use by the school, sport and recreation, health clinic, child care, aged care and council
  • Remote swimming pools are providing a range of community development activities including supporting community leadership, youth development, family relationships and health.

Royal Life Saving aims to ensure that the primary outcomes of improved child health and school attendance are achieved, and the opportunities to influence a broad range of social, health and economic outcomes are identified and strategies implemented to address them.

We support remote indigenous communities striving towards maximizing the benefits of the community swimming pool by:

  • Engaging and developing links between community agencies
  • Community leadership, employability, skills and training
  • Strong networks across remote indigenous communities
  • Promoting community events, programs and physical activity
  • Safety and risk management practices

A Review of Swimming Pools in Remote Areas of the Northern Territory

In 2010, Royal Life Saving released a report titled 'A Review of Swimming Pools in Remote Areas of the Northern Territory'. The report was completed following extensive consultation with stakeholders from 18 remote communities, and Local, Territory and Federal Government agencies.

The report was commissioned by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) and sought to investigate the issues and opportunities relating to 18 swimming pools in remote areas of the Northern Territory. These swimming pools service a population exceeding 19,000 people in mainly remote Indigenous communities, although some are also located in small regional towns.

Whilst there is considerable evidence that swimming pools have significant health benefits for Indigenous children living in remote communities, further work is needed to quantify the social and economic benefits that most feel exist.

The overriding feel of those who participated in this investigation was that without a coordinated response to managing swimming pools in remote areas, talk of health, social or economic benefits was largely academic, as swimming pools must be accessible, functioning and well integrated into community life for any such benefits to be realised.

The report makes 19 separate recommendations across each of the key areas. Royal Life Saving intends to work with all key stakeholders to achieve the outcomes sought through these recommendations. As a general overriding principle Royal Life Saving believes that swimming pools must be considered a core community service, with potential benefits that reach beyond the simple provision of recreational swimming opportunities for children and interested adults.

Having travelled over 20,000km conducting community consultations, swimming pool safety inspections and stakeholder meetings, Co-Author and Royal Life Saving Society - NT Executive Director Floss Roberts stated that "a shift in mindset is required to realise the view that swimming pools are a social asset, with strong links to a range of outcomes in areas of health, employment, youth leadership and family relations. Swimming pools require a budget allocation from all levels of government that values them beyond their basic ongoing maintenance cost, and includes the costs of service provision, community engagement and infrastructure revitalisation".

Click below to open the full report

A Review of Swimming Pools In Remote Areas of the Northern Territory - Royal Life Saving