[by Samantha Vigus]
Hedland Children Learn to be Water Safe
With the school holidays in full swing, 18 children in Port Hedland have enjoyed a two-day holiday program at the South Hedland Aquatic Centre. The program, run by the Youth Involvement Council and Royal Life Saving WA, was supported by the Town of Port Hedland and Principal Community Partner BHP as part of our Swim and Survive Access and Equity program.
During the program the children learned vital swimming and water safety skills including safe entries, the Aqua Code, reach rescues and basic swim skills. They also enjoyed wearing lifejackets and learning about pool rules and the role of a lifeguard, with the opportunity to dress up as a lifeguard a real highlight.
The children were taught by experienced Swim and Survive instructors and thoroughly enjoyed their time in the water. Each child also received a Swim and Survive pack including a swimming cap, goggles and towel. Some of the children who took part will also be involved in an eight week after school program to extend on the skills they’ve learnt this week.
WA’s regional areas continue to be over-represented in drowning deaths, with a drowning rate 3.7 times higher than the Perth metro area. Research has found that Australian Aboriginal children aged 0-14 are three times more likely to drown than other Australian children in this age group.
Royal Life Saving WA Senior Manager Swimming and Water Safety Education Trent Hotchkin says getting more regional and Aboriginal children involved in Swim and Survive programs will help turn these statistics around. “Research shows that limited water safety awareness and very low participation levels in swimming and water safety programs are major factors in these statistics, so Royal Life Saving WA is working to deliver programs across the state, to encourage participation in regional and remote communities.”
The Youth Involvement Council (YIC) is a youth organisation based in South Hedland, which provides after-school programs to young people in Hedland and surrounding areas. Their programs target children who are considered to be at risk, homeless, disadvantaged or in need of general support.
Karen Cooper from YIC says the experience was memorable and helpful for all the kids involved. "The YIC kids had an absolute ball attending the pools and learning some water survival skills at the same time. With high temperatures and recent rains, it was so important for our young people to know some basics such as safe entry and how to assist in a rescue safely. All the kids were very tired but full of happy chatter about the experience especially loving dancing with the duck and getting to pretend to be Lifeguards. The swim coaches were amazing and flexible adapting the training to suit the needs of the group which was so appreciated."
Programs such as these are only possible through the support of our funding partners, including BHP, who assist us in ensuring Western Australians in regional areas have an opportunity to participate in vital swimming and water safety education.
Meath Hammond, BHP Head of Corporate Affairs says “Water recreation is a big part of the Western Australian lifestyle and water safety is an important safety issue in regional and remote areas. We hope our partnership will improve the accessibility of water safety programs and include more members of the community in swimming education, so that our communities become safer places to live and work.”
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