Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2022 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 30 November 2022) . . Page.. 4076 ..
During the first two terms of 2022, 88 students completed the program. Confidence in the water at the start of the program varied, with most of the students describing themselves as scared or nervous. Following the program, their confidence increased and the majority felt much better equipped to be able to safely enjoy the recreational opportunities that swimming provides. I think this is an example of a program that could work very effectively here in the ACT where we have so many international students attending so many universities.
In closing, I bring this important issue to the attention of the Assembly because, as we go into this time of year, it is important that we can cool off safely and enjoy our time with friends, family and loved ones without any further tragedies.
MR MILLIGAN (Yerrabi) (3.57): I thank Mr Braddock for bringing this important motion to the Assembly today. The Canberra Liberals are keen to encourage ACT residents and visitors to make better use of our bountiful outdoor resources in the district. We want to see greater participation in both sporting and leisure activities for the betterment of our health and wellbeing. Certainly, the waterways around Canberra are great drawcards for picnics, swimming and entertainment activities.
Unfortunately, inland swimming spots present increased risks of dangers and problems, as they are mainly natural structures, generally without manufactured improvements. There is usually a lack of visibility of depth and of rocks, branches and other hidden dangers. Significant variations in temperature are common in inland waterways, and can cause distress. Flow rates are extremely variable and can confuse even competent swimmers. So, it is of little wonder that children, poor swimmers, older people, less fit people, and visitors who are not aware of Australian inland water conditions, can experience problems.
In my early working life I spent many years as a water skiing instructor on the Murray River, and I was very aware of the constantly changing water conditions and the increased need for vigilance at certain times. Even on a smaller scale, ACT waterways exhibit similar issues, particularly in the rivers. The lakes have added burdens of weeds and toxins, including blue-green algae. Canberra waterways have seasonal restrictions for swimming activities, as water temperatures are too cold during about seven months of the 12 months in the year.
Now, all of these issues demand extra vigilance, and this can mainly be achieved by better education, information, facilities and signage. So, I support the call in Mr Braddock’s motion today. I see merit in extending this process to provide public information and warnings where necessary when water conditions become dangerous for swimming. The levels of danger should also relate to the capabilities or levels of comprehension by all classes of swimmers. This is not restricted to new migrants or those unfamiliar with local water conditions. We too often see reports of drownings, and swimmers being caught up in rips and other dangerous conditions in oceans and saltwater environments; the message for improved awareness of those dangers is just as important for the inland waterways.
Given the popularity of local ACT swimming spots, it should be easier to focus information campaigns and signings on those areas. I certainly want to see greater usage of the ACT’s natural environment, but it has to be done in a safe manner. Far