Education Minister Grace Grace has confirmed a $3.68 million Water Safety Initiative for Queensland State Primary Schools. This change came shortly after a media campaign shed some much-needed light on the lack of water safety education in Queensland Primary Schools.
Why is this important?
In the 2016-17 period, 19 children drowned in Queensland. It is a frightening statistic considering it doesn’t include non-fatal drowning incidences and resulting injuries like brain damage. This drowning statistic is an increase of 10 children from the previous year which means Queensland isn’t getting better at saving their kids from drowning.
Water safety in Queensland
The simple fact is, Queensland kids swim and spend more time near water than their southern counterparts. Kids living in Queensland are more likely to visit beaches and rivers and much more likely to attend public swimming pools and have a pool at their home.
Water safety proponents have always sent the clear message that supervision is key to water safety and reducing risk factors has been part of the safety message. Pool fencing laws have made home pools safer, and mandatory CPR charts are there if something goes wrong.
Learn to swim classes have always been part of a Queensland upbringing but participation relies mainly on parent initiative and cost is often prohibitive. The reality remains that many kids are still not learning how to swim and are not safe around water.
A Courier Mail article recently revealed that Queensland is the only state not to have a compulsory or comprehensive State Government-funding swimming program in its primary schools. Shortly after this article left its mark, the Courier-Mail alongside 45 other Queensland News outlets launched the S.O.S Campaign. The campaign aimed to “Save Our Schoolkids” by calling out for change and trying to prevent the rise in drownings and rescues.
The campaign prompted our State Government to take action. A Water Safety Roundtable took place, and the result is the new Queensland Water Safety Program. In 2019 Queensland will join the rest of the country and provide our state primary school students with the essential skills they need to stay safe around water activities.
The Queensland Water Safety Program
As stated by Education Minister Grace Grace “Swimming and water sports are an integral part of Queensland life, and we want to ensure our children are safe”.
Under this new program, funding has been increased by a substantial $2.18 million. The government has agreed to contribute 3.68 million annually to both increase current programs and expand existing swimming and water safety programs.
This funding boost will mean all Primary Schools in Queensland will have a Water Safety and/or Learn to Swim program.
Key features of the learn to swim program
- A Statement of Expectations where all state schools will provide all students with safe, positive and engaging water safety and learn to swim programs
- A water safety and swimming education program for Prep to Year 10 students will be introduced – in line with the National Swimming and Water Safety Framework and Australian Curriculum.
- Teachers will be upskilled and trained to provide water safety lessons in the classroom, to complement those that are provided in the pool.
- A new $150,000 Swimming and Water Safety Grant funding program, so schools can apply for additional funds to support their swimming and/or water safety program
- Queensland Water Safety Action Statement – a plan to ensure every Queenslander has the information and support needed to be safe in and around the water
- Extra funding is also available to rural schools so that even the most remote Primary Schools will be able to fly in external providers such as lifesavers for intensive programs. Government representatives have worked alongside Surf Life Saving Queensland, Royal Lifesaving, AUSTSWIM and P&C’s Qld to ensure the new program reaches 100% of State Primary Schools and that it gives them the vital skills they need to stay safe in the water
What this means for our kids
We hope this means all Queensland kids will have the opportunity to participate in quality and consistently taught learn to swim programs focused on both learning to swim and the foundations of being safe around water. Most of all we hope this means less Queensland kids will die from drowning. Is it enough? Only time will tell, but it’s a step in the right direction.