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27 Oct 2022

New report assesses the role of Learn to Swim in Australia

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A new report has assessed the delivery system of learn to swim across the Australian community. The report was prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Australia and commissioned by Royal Life Saving Society – Australia. The report includes recommendations to maximise the potential of learn to swim and improve our nation's swimming and water safety skills, which will assist in reducing the generational risk of drowning.

The report found that many Australians, despite participating in lessons, fail to achieve the minimum swimming and water safety benchmarks. Others are missing out entirely.

In addition, the report confirms:

  • An estimated 40 per cent of children leave primary school unable to swim the length of an Olympic swimming pool.

  • Twenty-three per cent of Australian adults report weak or no swimming ability.

  • The most vulnerable are least likely to access lessons.

  • Barriers include cultural, financial and language difficulties.

  • Cost of living pressures are compounding existing barriers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the problem:

  • Pools were closed

  • Lessons were missed

  • Swim teacher shortages persist

  • Long wait lists prevail

This all means deliberate and considered action is needed to avoid generational effects on:

  • the swimming ability of the Australian population

  • the long-term drowning risk for children, young people and adults

  • physical activity, given the role that water plays in sport, leisure and recreation

  • sporting participation and success

  • Tourism, where water and water recreation are integral to domestic and international offerings

The report identifies three overarching principles to strengthen learn to swim in Australia:

  • Universal and equitable access to lessons

  • Supporting and encouraging everyone to learn to swim, reducing barriers

  • Supporting regional and remote communities by ensuring availability of pools and programs

  • Ensuring delivery tracks to the achievement of the National Swimming and Water Safety Benchmarks

The report was launched on Thursday 20 October 2022.

Read the full report or the summaries below.

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