The Herald Sun has joined with Life Saving Victoria in a campaign to introduce mandatory swimming lessons in state primary schools to prevent child drownings.
The campaign was inspired by a report produced by Life Saving Victoria, which found that three in every five children left primary school with limited or no swimming capabilities.
Combined with the fact that 79 children have died by drowning over the past 10 years, the Herald Sun found it to be a startling statistic. A further 637 children were taken to hospital after almost dying in water, with lifesavers rescuing another 390 children every summer.
The Herald Sun launched the campaign on page one on Monday, October 26, and supported it with further news reports over the past week.
Life Saving Victoria wants to overcome barriers that prevent schools from teaching swimming. These include the cost of swimming lessons, time out of school, crowded curriculum, and transport.
It then wants funding to mount a trial program in metropolitan schools, following a successful pilot program in Shepparton, in north-east Victoria.
The program will also have a research component, to assist Life Saving Victoria in developing the most effective way to improve swimming capabilities.
Paul Shannon, general manager of government and industry relations at Life Saving Victoria, hoped the campaign would help parents look at swimming programs differently.
“If it makes parents think twice about enrolling their kids in swimming lessons and realising the importance of learning to swim and water safety, that’s going to be a great outcome,” he said
He praised the Herald Sun for giving the campaign invaluable support.
“For putting it into the public arena, and sharing the information that is quite startling with regard to current swimming capabilities, we certainly couldn’t have done that without the media,” he said.
Tom Minear, one of the Herald Sun journalists covering the campaign, believed it was important to shine a light on the issue.
“It’s highlighting something that organisations in-the-know deem to be important, and it gives it that public impetus, and puts public opinion behind it as well,” he said.
There also has been a strong response from Herald Sun readers, who have offered their support.
“A few people told us of their surprise that swimming lessons weren’t already compulsory, saying that it seemed like common sense, especially given how much time Aussies spend around water,” Mr Minear said.
“I’ve also had lots of contact with people highlighting more local concerns related to drownings – dangerous swimming spots, pools that are closing, classes and lessons that are available to them.”
Life Saving Victoria also has received a favourable response. “Certainly, both the community and the government have sat up, and listened, and taken note,” Mr Shannon said.
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