In the 2015-16 financial year, 280 people drowned in Australian waters – a 5 per cent jump from the 267 drowning deaths of the previous year, according to a new report from the Royal Life Saving Society Australia.
The free swimming lesson program was announced just as research conducted by Poolwerx, which also organised the national awareness week, revealed almost a third of parents with children younger than five in NSW do not send their children to swimming lessons.
For 41 per cent of parents, “lack of money” was the main reason why their children were not taking lessons.
Ambassador of Learn to Swim Week and former Olympic swim coach Laurie Lawrence said children’s lives were too important to be put at risk by financial constraints.
“We want to see the day when we’re able to report that child deaths due to drowning have reached the magic number of zero, and if offering free lessons is what it takes then that’s what we’ll do,” he said.
Poolwerx owner Tony Whitelaw said, contrary to popular belief, swimming lessons are not compulsory in primary schools.
“It’s up to the parent to ensure their child learns water safety and how to swim (and) this is one of the many reasons why we started Learn to Swim Week.”
Two local university students Liam Thomson and Harrison Boudakin are ramping up their start-up business Big Splash, which aims to put a brake on drowning among kids.
The entrepreneurial duo, both 21, provides mobile swimming lessons for north shore families – most of whom already have backyard swimming pools which are barely being used.
The start-up already has eight to 10 clients per week and the co-founders are looking to expand the business by hiring more coaches.
“Learning to swim is one of the top five preventative measures to curb drowning,” Mr Thomson said.
“I can’t think of a better incentive than that for kids to learn to swim in a water-loving nation such as Australia.”
Originally published by Alison Cheung, North Shore Times, on September 21, 2016.