CHILDREN from multicultural backgrounds who migrated to Australia are being taught swimming and lifesaving skills along the Swan River to help prevent drownings.
The Swim and Survive on Swan program is running until tomorrow at the Ascot Kayak Club to raise awareness of the potential dangers around waterways.
Run by Royal Life Saving (RLS), the initiative was developed after recent data showed that Australia’s inland waterways were the leading location for drownings, with tourists and people from overseas most at-risk.
Within the last year two people died after drowning in the Swan River, which has been ranked the fourth highest drowning “black spot” in Australia.
Royal Life Saving Society WA senior manager swimming and water safety education Trent Hotchkin said WA rivers attracted many people, especially tourists and people from overseas who needed to be educated about drowning prevention.
“Those coming to Australia from overseas – whether as tourists or migrants – are at a far higher risk of drowning than the rest of the population, largely due to a lack of access to waterways for recreation in their homeland, and a lower emphasis on swimming and water safety education in these nations,” he said.
“In the past 12 months two young men from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds have drowned at Perth’s Blackwall Reach, which is a stark reminder of the risks associated with participating in activities at these locations.”
According to RLS, more than 34 per cent of drowning deaths in WA involved people who were born overseas, with this proportion having increased significantly over the past few years.
The number of deaths across the state as a result of drowning at inland waterways increased by 23 per cent in 2016-17 compared to the previous year, with the majority happening at rivers, creeks and streams in regional and remote areas.
Mr Hotchkin said the dangers were often lurking below the surface, such as rocks and snags including tree branches or strong currents, that all could be “lethal”.
“It is important that everyone has the necessary skills to participate safely at all aquatic locations, particularly inland waterways,” he said.
“This summer Royal Life Saving is focussed on ensuring young people from at-risk communities and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds learn these vital skills.”
The program, run from January 8-12, was supported by the City of Belmont’s Community Contribution Fund.
Four RLS steps to reduce the risk of drowning:
1. Wear a lifejacket;
2. Avoid alcohol around water;
3. Never swim alone; and
4. Learn how to save a life