Page 4075 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 30 November 2022
not be sufficient to make it viable in the long term. They have also—and pertinent to this motion today—been asking for lifesaving public infrastructure to be installed at the Cotter Bend, such as emergency flotation devices and better signage to adequately flag dangers. In addition they want to see mobile phone coverage expanded to cover the Cotter Bend, where five people have drowned in the past five years.
Najeeb’s story is eerily familiar because every six days a person who was born overseas dies by drowning. Swimming skills and water safety knowledge among overseas visitors is known to be less robust than for those of us who grew up in Australia.
An increase in new residents from a range of countries and cultures in recent years has important implications for drowning prevention strategies to ensure that everyone recreating in and around Australia’s rivers and creeks remain safe. On average, 288 people drown in Australia each year, with around one in four of those people being born overseas. Of those overseas born deaths, most were men and most drowned in rivers while swimming.
Royal Life Saving Society research shows some unique risk factors for drowning among people born overseas, and there are different subgroups that may require specific approaches to drowning prevention. There is, therefore, a need for tailored water safety strategies to target multicultural communities appropriately using clear messaging that is both culturally sensitive and educational. This requires specific information and at the transient populations that sometimes come through Canberra.
For people new to Australia swimming and water safety lesson may not be an immediate priority when settling. Even if families want to start swimming and water safety lessons, barriers exist to access in these programs, including financial, transport, child care and lack of culturally appropriate facilities and programs, something that I was discussing in my last PMV. Some people may have never been in the water before, let alone visited a public swimming pool or could have a fear of water and of drowning. Therefore, they may not have the knowledge, awareness or skills to adequately help themselves or others around the water.
In Australia, children have the opportunity to learn swimming and water safety skills and are exposed to water-based activities through their school years. Adults are less likely to access formal lessons or safety programs to learn the essential knowledge and skills to keep themselves and their families safe around pools, beaches and other water bodies. Water and beach culture are part of the Australian experience, but what if you did not grow up here and/or did not have the opportunity to learn these skills?
I would like to give a shout out to a program run by the University of New South Wales which in October this year won the AUSTSWIM 2022’s state and national awards for community education program of the year. The University of New South Wales Health Promotion Unit, in partnership with Medibank, the UNSW Fitness & Aquatic Centre and Coogee Surf Life Saving Club, have designed a water and beach safety program that provides eight lessons aimed to teach international students to keep them safe. This is provided at a heavily discounted rate to each and every single international student that comes through the University of New South Wales.