2017 Coast Safe Report: Fears more children will drown unless we address swimming issue
CHILDREN are missing out on vital swimming skills because parents are leaving it up to schools to teach them how to save themselves in the water.
The high cost of lessons and the mistaken belief of parents that all schools offer swimming lessons as part of the curriculum are being blamed for the perilous decline in the swimming ability among school-aged students.
Surf Life Saving Queensland, who will today release its 2017 Coast Safe Report, fears more children will drown unless the state addresses the issue.
SLSQ chief operating officer George Hill said the greatest challenge identified in the Coast Safe Report was the increasing number of students aged five to 17 who displayed low to poor swimming ability.
Mr Hill said this posed a grave risk and was supported by a combination of drowning and rescue figures and feedback from lifesavers, parents and experts.
He said the state body was looking to work directly with key stakeholders, including the State Government, to develop and implement mandatory school-based programs to help improve the swimming ability of young Queenslanders.
“This is very serious. There is no doubt that if we don’t act soon we will see a rise in fatalities involving children,’’ Mr Hill said.
“We believe that parents and government, whether it’s the education or health department, have a joint responsibility to water-proof our children,’’ he said.
“We live in a country that prides itself on its water environment – and indeed sells this image to the world – and we are not equipping our young people to survive in it.’’
SLSQ says it has brought the issue to the attention of government and initial feedback was it would be difficult to implement mandatory water safety and swim lessons due to the costs.
It plans to build on its iconic nippers program this summer and increase safety talks targeting children.
The Australian Sports Commission’s AusPlay survey in 2016 identified the main barriers to children participating in sport.
These included parents can’t afford it/can’t afford transport, not enough time/too many other commitments and “child doesn’t like physical activity’’.
About 30 per cent of children surveyed rated swimming as their top activity organised outside of school hours.
The Coast Safe Report reveals 20.7 million people visited Queensland’s patrolled beaches in 2016/17 – a jump of 11 per cent on the previous year.
SLSQ for the first time also has revealed it wants to broaden its role to educate those who visit inland waterways that saw 22 drownings last year – 18 more than on surf beaches.
None of those drownings occurred at the Gold Coast beaches.
However, the city remains the most common region across Queensland for drowning deaths over the past 10 years.
Of 77 drownings recorded off Queensland beaches, 29 were on the Gold Coast.
“We are obviously thrilled to have recorded zero drownings on Gold Coast beaches last season, but that doesn’t mean our job is done,” said SLSQ Gold Coast lifesaving co-ordinator Nathan Fife.
“Last season our dusk patrol crews at Surfers Paradise pulled two late-night swimmers from the water in separate incidents with both patients in an extremely serious condition and potentially moments away from drowning,” Mr Fife said.
“There’s absolutely no doubt that their actions and bravery saved two lives and, for that reason, we’ll be increasing our efforts with additional dusk patrols across the season,” he said.