FEDERAL Labor is mulling over changes to swimming and water safety education across Australia, with the latest in a series of national roundtables being held in Anglesea last week.
Thursday’s event at the Anglesea SLSC was hosted by Labor candidate for Corangamite Libby Coker and Kingsford Smith federal member Matt Thistlethwaite, and attracted parties, including representatives from organisations including Life Saving Victoria, the State Emergency Service (SES), the Swimming Pool and Spa Association, the Lorne, Point Lonsdale and Ocean Grove surf lifesaving clubs, and private swimming pool operators.
Ms Coker said that in the Surf Coast Shire, 17 people had drowned over the past 17 years.
“We do not have national policy, and we need to change this.”
Mr Thistlethwaite said the Anglesea roundtable was the fifth Labor had held on the issue, and the party was looking to form policy to take to the next federal election.
“The level of water safety a child gets depends very much on where they live and their parents’ income.
“What we’re talking about is additional funding to bolster swimming and water safety education.”
LSV’s Dr Bernadette Matthews said 60 per cent of Victorian pupils leaving primary school were unable to swim 50 metres, and that the declining number of children in swimming lessons could be attributed to the high cost to schools, particularly the bus travel component.
Exactly what should be taught in swimming lessons was also canvassed, with the suggestion that if a child was only getting 10 lessons a year (and maybe only during primary school), then lessons should be more about survival skills and less about stroke technique.
SES operational manager Gary Whewell said there needed to be more collaboration between the various agencies, and was keen to see more focus on the safety of international visitors.
“On an international level, how do we instil a culture that water’s dangerous?”
He said new swimming pools could have water safety centres to simulate conditions in rivers, dams and fast-flowing water – an idea backed by Ocean Grove SLSC vice-president Stephanie Asher to support the inclusion of a pool in the Drysdale sports precinct, and raised again by Liberal Member for Western Victoria Simon Ramsay through a petition he announced on Tuesday.