The Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) was founded in England in 1891 to combat a high drowning toll. The techniques advocated by the Society were soon adopted by many countries and today the RLSS represents the largest single organisation dedicated to the teaching of lifesaving and the prevention of drowning.

The first Australian Branch was formed in New South Wales in 1894 and the movement soon spread to all States. In December 1924, a dual system of lifesaving was established with Surf Life Saving Australia being responsible for ocean beaches and the Royal Life Saving Society - Australia responsible for all other waterways and stillwater environments.

In subsequent years the Society focused its attention on water safety education and rescue training for inland areas, and particularly for school children. In the immediate pre and post Second World War era the Bronze Medallion was included in many secondary school physical education programs.
During that period, as had been the case for the previous 60 years, the Society's training Manual was imported directly from the United Kingdom and was heavily orientated to a military drill-type approach. However, by the early 1950s a group of dynamic physical educationalists, led by George Turnbull and Frank Henry of the New South Wales Branch, started developing techniques specific to Australian conditions. This controversial but exciting period of the Society's history resulted in 1953 in the first Australian Life Saving Manual.

This period of change in Australia ultimately led to an important international change in 1959 with the establishment of the "Australian National Branch" and the RLSS Commonwealth Society. This time was followed by a period of relative stability, with the water safety and lifesaving programs being used in most Australian schools.
In the late 1970s, the longest and most sustained period of change and growth commenced with the help of a group of Victorian educationalists. At that time no national water safety education program existed. This group recognised that if they could provide a well-balanced and easy-to-follow water safety program, it would be readily accepted by swimming and school teachers nationwide. After trialing a program in a number of States and Territories, the Society launched the "Swim and Survive" program in 1982.

This program was so well structured and in demand from teachers, it resulted in over 1 million awards being taken in just 2 years. At the same time the organisation launched the first edition of "Swimming and Lifesaving - The Manual", a radical and modern looking educational text.
In addition to these developments, Royal Life Saving Society - Australia developed a world-class lifeguarding program, particularly for pools, during the early 1990s. The Pool Lifeguard Program is now widely recognised as the qualification for those supervising others in and around inland waters.
Today, RLSSA operates as Australia's leading water safety educator - a not for profit charitable organisation, public benevolent institution (PBI) and volunteer community service organisation with member organisations in every State and Territory of Australia.

Over one million Australian's undertake a Royal Life Saving course or program every year. Over 5 million Australians have achieved their Bronze Medallion since its inception, and over 10 million have learnt their essential water safety skills through Swim and Survive.


The first Australian branch of the Royal Life Saving Society was formed in New South Wales

Establishment of lifesaving activities in Victoria

Royal Life Saving Queensland Branch established

Royal Life Saving South Australia Branch established

Royal Life Saving Tasmania Branch established

Royal Life Saving Western Australia Branch established

Dual system of lifesaving was established with Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) being responsible for ocean beaches and the Royal Life Saving Society Australia (RLSSA) responsible for all other stillwater locations

Population 6.6 million people, 493 people drowned (407 male, 86 female)

Publication of the first Australian Lifesaving Manual

Establishment of the Australian National Branch and the Royal Life Saving Society Commonwealth

Royal Life Saving Northern Territory Branch established

Royal Life Saving Australian Capital Territory Branch established

Swim and Survive National Water Safety Program launched

Early 90s
Population above 17 million, Drowning Deaths down to 300 a year
World Class Pool Lifeguard Program developed and delivered

Keep Watch Launched

Population above 20 million, 265 people drowned (220 male, 45 female)

Australian Water Safety Strategy 2008-11 launched to reduce drowning deaths by 50% by 2020

2011 Royal Life Saving Society - Australia hosts the World Conference on Drowning Prevention in Vietnam.

Population above 22 million, 284 people drowned (232 male, 52 female)

Australian Water Safety Strategy 2012-15 launched with the continued objective to reduce the Australian Drowning Death Toll by 50% by 2020.

Population above 24 million, 280 people drowned (231 male, 49 female)

Royal Life Saving Launched the Respect the River Program to promote safe aquatic recreation and prevent drowning in inland waterways.

Australian Water Safety Strategy 2016 -2020 launched to reduce the Drowning Death Toll by 50% by 2020