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Royal Life Saving looks to prevent drowning in Western Australia’s migrant population

January 12, 2017

New drowning data highlights the fact that people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) backgrounds are drastically over-represented in drowning deaths in Western Australia.

On average over the last five years 36% of people who drowned in Western Australia were born overseas, and 58% of these were from a non-English speaking background.

Of these drowning deaths 21% were new arrivals in Western Australia who had limited water safety knowledge and swimming skills.

Commenting on the findings, Royal Life Saving WA Chief Executive Peter Leaversuch stated “many people from CaLD communities have never had the opportunity to participate in swimming and water safety programs that many Western Australians take for granted which places them at a greater risk of drowning.”

 Royal Life Saving WA’s Swim and Survive Access and Equity program was developed to ensure that people from CaLD backgrounds have access to swimming and water safety programs.

Leaversuch explains “our concern is that too many people from CaLD communities are not participating in these programs and therefore not gaining the swimming and survival skills to participate safely, and that needs to change.

“This program aims to break down barriers to participation amongst CaLD communities such as cost and access to culturally appropriate venues and programs. It has been very successful with over 1,000 people participating in the program each year.”

Office of Multicultural Interests Executive Director Rebecca Ball shares this concern, adding “with more than one-third of Western Australians born overseas, we are one of Australia’s most culturally diverse States.

“Our cultural diversity is an asset and the State Government is committed to strengthening and building capacity in CaLD communities.

“Supporting this program through the Office of Multicultural Interests’ Community Grants Program allows us to address the needs of culturally diverse communities, while encouraging community engagement and cross-cultural understanding.

“Most importantly, we are helping families adjust to a new life in a new country and to safely participate in and enjoy our unique lifestyle.

“In many cases, our culturally diverse communities have hailed from countries where they have not had access to water in a recreational sense, nor learnt how to swim. Programs such as the Swim and Survive Access and Equity Program are vital to ensuring WA’s vibrant and successful multicultural community continues to thrive.”

The Royal Life Saving Society WA and BHP Billiton have shared a long and successful partnership delivering a range of water safety drowning prevention programs for high-risk communities in WA including the Swim and Survive Access and Equity program.

Since 2003, BHP Billiton has invested over $2.3 million towards the delivery of these programs and has recently committed a further $2.375 million over the next five years to ensure that these programs continue to make an impact in the community. 

Image: Courtesy of Royal Life Saving Society WA

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