Partnership continues to build water safety skills across Western Australia
[by Samantha Vigus]
Royal Life Saving WA continues to work with Principal Community Partner, BHP, to reduce drowning statistics across Western Australia. Since 2003 we have been working together to drive innovation and positive change for regional and remote communities. We know that swimming pools are not just about physical activity they are also a place where educational, health, well-being and social cohesion outcomes are achieved.
Recently the two organisations signed a new partnership agreement, which will see BHP provide $1.5 million over two years to fund a range of swimming and water safety education and youth employment programs across both metro and regional areas of WA, largely focused on the Pilbara. Our project contributes to achieving the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals; building community cohesion, mental and physical health and well-being, employment opportunities, education and equality for those in at-risk communities.
Statistics show that people are 2.3 times more likely to drown in regional and remote WA, with Aboriginal people at greatest risk. Aboriginal children drown at a rate two and a half times that of nonAboriginal children in our state. For this reason, many of the programs to be run during the next two years will target these communities.
Royal Life Saving WA is working in BHP’s 11 WA host communities and 8 north-west aboriginal communities to promote water safety and health and wellbeing among Western Australians. We believe that through education and training, advocacy and awareness raising, as well as encouraging community involvement in water-based activities through the delivery of a range of key programs for infants, children and adults, we can effectively reduce drowning statistics across these communities.
One of the new initiatives Royal Life Saving WA will focus on is the Talent Pool program, an innovative training and employment program that provides a springboard for Aboriginal young people wanting to achieve employment in the aquatics industry. These young people take part in First Aid, Aquatic Rescue, Pool Lifeguard and Swim Instructor training that prepares them to for employment opportunities in their local communities and across the state.
During 2020/21 we aim to engage around 170 Aboriginal youth across regional areas of WA and the Perth Metropolitan area in this program. We look forward to seeing Talent Pool continue to grow, with the support of BHP over the coming two years, providing real opportunities in training and employment for young Aboriginal Western Australians. In some cases these young people will fill positions in regional WA towns that will ensure aquatic programs can run in areas where children have been at risk of missing out on vital swimming and water safety education due to staff shortages at local aquatic facilities.
Another focus area of Royal Life Saving WA’s ongoing partnership with BHP is to address the overrepresentation of multicultural Western Australians in drowning statistics. Recent data shows that over a ten-year period 40% of drowning deaths in WA involved people who were born overseas, the largest proportion of any state or territory. Royal Life Saving is working to reduce these statistics through its Swim and Survive Access and Equity program, which provides targeted swimming and water safety lessons for multicultural families, Aboriginal Western Australians and those in socially disadvantaged areas. Swim and Survive provides opportunities for everyone from children right through to the Men’s and Women’s Only adult programs, to ensure no-one misses out on this vital education.
Royal Life Saving WA CEO Peter Leaversuch says the program is crucial as we work to prevent drowning across our community. “Swimming is an intrinsic part of the Australian way of life, which means that Swim and Survive lessons are not only essential - they are lifesaving. Building swimming and water safety skills from young children right through to adults is vital work and the single most important investment we can make as a community to prevent drowning.”
The Swim and Survive Access and Equity program will provide targeted programing to ensure at-risk children learn Swim and Survive skills from a young age, while also promoting community resilience through rescue, lifesaving and emergency care skills through the teenage and adult years. It will also foster lifesaving as a vehicle for vocational outcomes in these communities.
Meath Hammond, BHP Head of Corporate Affairs WA, says this important partnership with Royal Life Saving WA is one that is making a real difference in drowning prevention right across the state. “BHP is proud to have played a small part in Royal Life Saving’s bigger story through delivering vital programs to regional and vulnerable communities, training lifesavers and creating safer aquatic places for all Western Australians.”
This partnership will see targeted swimming, water safety and drowning prevention education reach vast areas of WA, from Rockingham and Kwinana in the Perth Metropolitan area, to Port Hedland, Newman, Jigalong, Yandeyarra and Onslow in the Pilbara, Kalgoorlie, Leinster, Leonora and Kambalda in the Goldfields, Exmouth in the Gascoyne and Wiluna in the Mid-West. With the support of BHP programs will be delivered for all ages and stages of life, as we work together to ensure “Everyone can be a lifesaver.”
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