More than 60 women from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities across Sydney’s Greater West yesterday graduated from the Royal Life Saving NSW (RLS NSW) swimming and CPR training program.
This comprehensive 10-week program was developed in collaboration with Liverpool City Council, the Belgravia Leisure Group and Liverpool Neighbourhood Connections. Participants, many of whom had almost no confidence in the water, were taught the fundamentals of swimming and water safety.
RLS NSW Health Promotions Manager Louise Smalley said the program is aimed at, but not limited to, women with young children from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, designed to boost swimming ability, and to educate them on water safety and resuscitation skills.
“Our goal is to minimise drowning and the fear of water, and research shows that adult swimming and safety programs will be a key to reducing the rate of drowning incidents,” Ms Smalley said.
The course completion coincides with new research, National Drowning Report 2022, which revealed a shocking increase in the number of drowning deaths across the region. Overall NSW experienced a 34 per cent increase on the 2021/22 year and a 57 per cent increase on the 10-year average.
Significantly, the rate of drowning in children aged 1 -4 years in NSW has decreased, indicating the strength of education programs and awareness campaigns targeting children and parents – and highlighting the need to provide access for adult programs,
“The majority of drownings (95 per cent) in NSW were among adults over 18 and in the 10 years to 2022, Greater Western Sydney areas of Canterbury-Bankstown, Parramatta, Blacktown, Penrith, Liverpool and Fairfield have recorded the most fatalities in NSW. We are working with communities and governments to reverse this trajectory,
Of the RLS NSW Western Sydney swimming and CPR program graduates, more than half the participants were women, aged 35 - 44 and who speak Arabic languages at home. The second highest representation was from Urdu speaking women and the rest of the group was made up of those from Hindi, Vietnamese and Chinese communities.
In a survey prior to the course, participants were asked, "How would you rate your level of confidence in the water?" More than 70% rated their ability and confidence lower than five out of 10. Following the program, 90% of participants rated it five or higher.
“This is a significant leap towards water safety and enjoyment of a great community resource, as many participants said they had enrolled so they could safely take their children to pools or beaches,” Ms Smally said.
Liverpool Mayor Ned Mannoun said it was wonderful to see so many women gaining confidence in the water and learning important lifesaving skills.
“Council took care of both services, arranging a Council bus each week, and engaged Liverpool Neighbourhood Connections to provide free childminding onsite so that the participants were able to join in and learn these vital skills.
“We are proud to be part of a program that provides tangible assistance so that local women can embrace the water safely and make the most of our beaches and swimming pools as the weather heats up.”
Ms Smalley added that after completing the program, almost half of all participants could move through the water with basic skills and float on their back - essential survival skills to have in and around the water.
“Unfortunately, Western Sydney has eight of the 12 local government areas with the highest rates of drownings. Due to the diversity of our communities, the ongoing growth of the region and the variety of recreational areas, a whole of community approach is needed,” Ms Smalley added.