ALP announces $46 million plan to keep children’s heads above water
All Australian children will have access to swimming and water safety lessons in primary school, the Australian Labor Party has pledged in a $46 million Swim Smart initiative that it plans to roll out if elected to government. A move that may be of interest to outside school hours care (OSHC) services that provide swimming activities as part of their curricula.
“Aussies love swimming, but too many young people are growing up without learning sufficient water safety skills to keep them safe,” ALP Leader Bill Shorten said in a statement on his website.
Mr Shorten said that a program is needed to ensure Australian children are strong swimmers and safe in the water, pointing to recent statistics:
- In 2017-18, nearly 250 people drowned in Australian waterways, with one in five drownings people under the age of 25
- 65 drownings have occurred in Australian waterways over the 2018-19 summer.
Mr Shorten said that, currently, access to school-based swimming lessons is inconsistent, with access depending on location, type of school, and whether their parents can afford private lessons. “This is unfair and unsafe. We don’t want children to miss out,” he said.
From the 2020 school year, the Swim Smart program will aim to deliver more swimming and water safety lessons for students during the school term, with the ALP pledging to fund:
- additional swimming lessons for schools that need it;
- catch-up lessons for kids needing extra support;
- more support for the cost of transport and pool entry fees; and,
- additional support to children with a disability to ensure they can participate.
The new national program would be based on the Royal Life Saving Australia’s Year Four National Water Safety Standards. This includes the goal that children can swim 50 metres, tread water, and know how to respond if they fall into water unexpectedly.
Mr Shorten said that currently, about one in five kids leave primary school unable to swim 50 metres.
The ALP said it plans to work with states and territories, Catholic and Independent schools to deliver the program to schools who require extra support, in addition to local government, swim schools and lifesaving clubs to help ensure students have access.
“Swimming lessons aren’t just something parents should have to organise on weekends or during the holidays. It’s a critical part of growing up safe in Australia, so it should be part of the school term,” Mr Shorten said.
The Smart Swim initiative will be in addition to existing state and territory programs.