Last year 291 people lost their lives in Australian waterways. As a Royal Lifesaving Water Safety Ambassador, the upward trajectory of national drownings must be reversed.
So I was pleased to join Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP and Josh Wilson MP last week for an insightful roundtable with members of the WA water safety community, to come up with ideas for a national approach to reducing drowning deaths in Australia.
Sadly, Australia has no national approach to swimming and water safety education.
In many cases, the level of water safety education a child receives is dependent on where they live or their parents income.
In some states and territories there is no swimming or water safety program in schools, while in others like WA, it is an essential part of the school curriculum.
This inequity is even greater for Indigenous children, who are less likely to achieve identified benchmarks for water safety competence compared to non-Indigenous students. This is also the case for children not born in Australia.
Swimming and water safety achievement levels in children across Australia are falling and there has been a decline in the number of children participating in formal swimming programs, with one study finding three out of five children leave primary school without basic swimming ability.
The reopening of the upgraded Armadale Aquatic Centre for the 2018-19 summer season will go a long way to help local schools ensure their students get access to In Term as well as VacSwim lessons.
Labor hopes to ensure that all primary school children, regardless of where they live, who their parents are, or where they go to school, will receive water safety training.
With the help of experts, advocates and community groups passionate about swimming and water safety, like those we met at the Coogee Beach Surf Life Saving Club last week. Labor will develop a better approach to reducing drowning in Australia.