Colin Barnett

Colin Barnett


    Summer swimming classes begin

    2/01/2001 9:10 AM

    Thousands of young Western Australians have taken to the water at pools and beaches right around the State today to start this summer’s annual vacation swimming lessons.

    During the next four weeks, vacation swimming classes will be held at more than 350 beach and pool venues around WA and will involve around 1,200 instructors.

    Education Minister Colin Barnett today launched the Vacswim program for 2001 at the Inglewood Aquatic Centre, where hundreds of children were enjoying their swimming lessons under the care of qualified instructors.

    “Swimming and water safety lessons are a vitally important part of growing up for young Western Australians as they learn to handle any type of water conditions, either in a backyard pool or in the ocean,” Mr Barnett said.

    “Vacation swimming lessons have been a way of life for thousands of young Western Australians for 80 years and the program in our State remains the largest of its type anywhere in Australia.

    “Despite this, the number of children participating in vacation swimming lessons has been steadily declining and this is a concern.”

    Mr Barnett said to rekindle interest in vacation swimming, the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia (WA branch) was brought on board last year to manage the program on behalf of the Education Department of WA.

    “The Royal Life Saving Society has been working on making the lessons even more fun for children, helping parents with enrolments and offering more opportunities to participate in related sporting areas, such as water polo and surf life saving,” he said.

    The Royal Life Saving Society has implemented a number of innovative improvements to the delivery of the Vacswim Program. These include:
    • improved promotion and awareness, including promotion through aquatic clubs and centres;
    • quality assurance standards to guide staff when dealing with customer inquiries;
    • individual 'tracking' of participant progress through the program, including personalised invitations to re-enrol in the program; and -
    • the development of a ‘Vacswim Webpage’.

    Mr Barnett said this year, as in 1999-2000, there would be an emphasis on taking swimming lessons to the country.

    “Forty-eight centres in the Wheatbelt have already completed classes,” he said.

    “This year, it’s expected about 57,000 children throughout the State will participate in Vacswim, a similar number to last year.”

    Mr Barnett said recent tragic accidents highlighted just how dangerous the water could be and with our hot days over summer, more and more families would be wanting to cool off.

    “Guidelines for Government school aquatic activities are being further tightened - in consultation with all major water safety organisations - in time for the start of the new school year,” he said.

    “We want to ensure that the risk to our students is minimised.

    “Water safety knowledge is an absolute necessity if swimming and playing in pools and at the beach is to be safe.”

    Royal Life Saving Society Executive Director Alex McKenzie supported the Minister, saying recent drownings highlighted the importance of educating children and parents in water safety.

    “All these deaths are preventable,” Mr McKenzie said.

    “Australia is a world leader in the reduction of drowning rates for the five to 14-year-old age groups.

    “It would be devastating to see our fantastic track record in drowning reductions reversed.

    “We are committed to involving the community in programs that educate people about the water.”

    Mr McKenzie said as the Royal Life Saving Society continued its involvement in Vacswim, it would be forging strong relationships between swimming and other sports to encourage children, particularly teenagers, to move from swimming lessons into other water-related sports to maintain and improve their skills.

    Through the vacation swimming program, children can already gain certificates from the Royal Life Saving Society, Surf Life Saving WA and the WA Water Polo Association and these relationships will continue to be expanded.

    Media contact:
    Caroline Lacy on 9222 9699