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Lifesaving skill missing in two-thirds of Aussie homes

Swim safe
Photo: Lifesaving skill missing in two-thirds of Aussie homes
Getting as many children as possible learning to swim is the goal of ‘Swim It Forward’, an initiative of Swim Australia that seeks to help Australian families access swimming lessons more easily, after concerning research revealed parents were putting their children in danger by not prioritising this lifesaving skill.

The Swim Safer Report commissioned by Swim Australia, as part of SwimSAFER Week, revealed over half (55%) of Aussie kids did not attend lessons, and 41% of parents had no intention of enrolling their child despite summer being the peak drowning season.

A third (30%) of Australian families admitted to experiencing a water related emergency such as a near drowning experience, and one-in-three (34%) parents were not confident their child could get themselves out of trouble in a water safety emergency.
With research suggesting less children were being taught to swim, Swim Australia CEO, Brendon Ward was concerned about the repercussions of this trend and urged parents to prioritise swimming as a skill every child needs.

“It is vital for parents in Australia to ensure their children have the appropriate knowledge and confidence to be safe around water and be equipped with the skills to help them in an emergency,” he said. “SwimSAFER Week is an opportunity for parents to re-educate themselves about why learning to swim is proven to be one of the top drowning prevention measures.

“So much of our Australian culture involves the water, from the classic poolside BBQ, to a day at the beach with the family. Despite this, more than half (52%) of Aussie children do not attend swimming lessons because their parents don’t have time or cannot afford it. Yet one in two children (53%) still attend another activity or sport like football or dancing.”

“All physical activity is important, but we want parents to view swimming as a non-negotiable skill their child must learn, especially if they are under five. No other activity has the same lifesaving lessons as learning to swim does. It’s a matter of safety.” 

The ‘Swim It Forward’ initiative aims to reduce the barriers for parents by generating funds to assist more families to afford swimming lessons. By donating the equivalent of one lesson (or just $20) Swim Australia will be able to help more families access lessons, while at the same time impacting the swimming industry, which took a big hit due to COVID.

Former World Champion and Australian swimmer, Jade Edmistone is supporting the campaign and is passionate about teaching children to swim and says it is critical that parents enrol their children in swimming lessons from a young age.

“With backyard pools the number one site of drownings in children under five, it is never too early for parents to invest in swimming lessons. And that’s exactly what it is, an investment into your child’s future. In their life,” she said.

“Learning to swim should be a vital part of every child’s upbringing, especially in the earlier years as this is when they establish the lifesaving skills like learning to float, being comfortable to breathe while in the water and easy ways to get themselves out of a pool safely. It’s never too early to start. My kids started when they were 6 months old.  It needs to become a non-negotiable in every home across Australia,” Jade said.

“If everyone found it in their heart to donate just one lesson to ‘Swim It Forward’ we could help thousands more children learn about water safety. Who knows how many lives we could save in the long-run?”

Mr Ward said with more than half (59%) of Aussie parents admitting they had only had basic or deficient swimming skills themselves, Swim Australia was passionate about bridging the gap and increasing the number of children being able to access swimming lessons.

“We don’t want to see this pattern repeating. Australia is too much of a water loving nation and we want families to understand how vital learning to swim is which is why we hold SwimSAFER Week each year. It’s a chance to remind Australians about the virtues of learning to swim, from the safety benefits to the fitness and bonding experiences that comes from being in the water with your child.”

There are over 500 swim schools celebrating SwimSAFER Week across Australia with a range of events. People can find their closest swim school at www.swimsafer.org.au and are invited to visit and find out more about what their child will learn through swimming lessons.

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