The plea the Government ignored


THIS is the desperate plea to help save children from drowning that the State Government rejected.

Aquatic safety leader Surf Life Saving Queensland sent a letter to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in December 2016 outlining the escalating threat to school-aged children along our coastline and in dams and rivers.

The document, a secret until now, urged the State Government to act before more lives were lost.

It revealed a deadly trend, identified in drowning and rescue figures, and feedback from lifesavers, parents and instructors.

Even highlighting action by the Victorian Government to address the alarming issue fell on deaf ears.

The baffling knockback has been revealed as The Courier-Mail and water-safety groups drive a campaign to make swimming and water-safety lessons compulsory in Queensland primary schools.

At present, it is at the discretion of principals.

Excerpts from the SLSQ letter
Excerpts from the SLSQ letter

The push is aimed at water-proofing a generation of children experts say can no longer swim to save themselves.

The perilous decline in swimming and survival competency has sparked fears of a spike in drownings over the next decade.

The trend has been blamed on the high cost of lessons and mistaken belief of parents that all schools offered sufficient swimming lessons.

SLSQ sent a letter to the Premier on December 8, 2016, outlining the growing danger.

"Tragically, each and every year we see numerous Queenslanders drown in the surf and other aquatic environments as a direct result of their poor swimming ability, training and judgment,'' the letter reads.

"We respectfully urge you to consider following Victoria's lead and mandate a regulated and certified swimming program as part of the state's ongoing school curriculum.

"We firmly believe that equipping all students, regardless of location, with vital swimming skills and awareness will not only save lives, but also significantly reduce the number of major incidents on Queensland beaches and in other locations.''

Surf Life Saving Queensland chief George Hill says compulsory swimming lessons in schools are a ‘no-brainer’.
Surf Life Saving Queensland chief George Hill says compulsory swimming lessons in schools are a ‘no-brainer’.

The letter from SLSQ chief operating officer George Hill outlined the since-introduced Victorian model, where all school students are required to earn a water-safety certificate to demonstrate competence in swimming.

"This is an extremely positive and proactive step forward and one which SLSQ applauds," Mr Hill wrote.

"Every day our lifesavers and lifeguards are required to assist unprepared swimmers who have found themselves in trouble and out of their depth after entering the water with minimal swimming ability.

"Last year, lifesavers and lifeguards directly saved the lives of 3660 swimmers; however, 11 drowned on beaches in 2015-16 and a further 33 died after incidents in lakes, rivers and dams.''

Mr Hill this week said it was a "no-brainer'' for Queensland to implement compulsory swimming lessons in schools, given the state's warmer climate and love of water-based recreation.

He said the plea to the Premier and request for a meeting had been forwarded to then education minister Kate Jones, who did not sit down with SLSQ, but delegated the task to departmental representatives.

"At the conclusion of the meeting, they stated they would brief the Minister and set up a time to talk further. Nothing more eventuated," Mr Hill said.

Mr Hill said SLSQ would welcome the opportunity to resume the conversation with new Education Minister Grace Grace.

A spokesman for the Department of Education and Training told The Courier-Mail opportunities existed in the Australian curriculum - health and physical education, to include swimming in curriculum delivery.

"A Learn to Swim grant was also available for eligible schools without a pool to assist them to access facilities,'' he said.

"Swimming and aquatic safety is important to the department and continuing support for schools is reviewed regularly.''

SLSQ's 2017 Coast Safe Report revealed more than 2550 beachgoers were rescued in 2016-2017 and 729 were school-aged children, many left unsupervised by parents.

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