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Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguards Association conference to explore reversing rising summer drowning toll

Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguards Association conference to explore reversing rising summer drowning toll
May 4, 2021

Leading ocean safety experts from around the country will come together later this week to address the alarming rise in the number of Australians who drowned in the nation’s waterways and beaches over the last summer.

Following one of the deadliest seasons on record for drownings - during which 86 lives were lost, an increase of 30% from the previous summer - the Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguards Association (APOLA) will be hosting their annual conference at Sandon Point in Wollongong on 6th and 7th May.

Among those presenting will be Bruce ‘Hoppo’ Hopkins, President of Surf Educators International (SEI), who will be calling for immediate change in how swimmers are advised to act when caught in an ocean rip.

Hopkins, who is Chief Lifeguard at Waverley Council with over 30 years of experience and who also appears on the hit TV series, Bondi Rescue that has run for 16 seasons, will be launching SEI’s ‘Float to Survive’ campaign at the conference aimed at providing swimmers with a simple but effective safety strategy should they encounter difficulties.

He explains “I’ve witnessed too many drownings occurring by people trying to swim or struggle when caught in a rip - our philosophy is if you can float you will have a much greater chance of survival.

“Floating is the single most important lifesaving skill that we can teach people because it allows them to conserve their energy and gives them vital time either to be rescued or to reach safety.

“We cannot have another summer like the one that has just passed - it is such a senseless waste of lives.”

Ken Holloway, founding member and life member of APOLA Inc, said there needs to be increased lifeguard services and improved water safety messages, with more people flocking to our beaches every summer.

Holloway noted “this is something local, state and federal governments really need to address as our cities get busier with growing population. We can’t just rely on what has been done in the past.

“Coastal Councils are the main provider for lifeguard services (but) under the current funding model for water safety, councils receive minimal funds while demand for local council lifeguard services increase. The current funding model needs to be reviewed. ”

Also presenting at the conference is Warren Young, the recently retired former Chief Lifeguard for the Gold Coast City Council who will reflect on his almost 50-year career.

William Koon, a former Lifeguard with the Californian State Parks, who is currently completing his PhD in coastal studies, will share his research into the effectiveness of water safety messages and education programs.

The Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguard Association Inc (APOLA Inc) is the non-profit peak ocean safety association for local council employed beach inspectors and ocean lifeguards. It promotes and supports best practice in ocean water safety and beach management in consultation with councils and those working in the industry.

Click here for more information on the APOLA conference.

Images: Professional lifeguards at Coffs Harbour (top) and Bruce ‘Hoppo’ Hopkins (below).

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25th March 2021 - New Water Safety Strategy sets out plan to significantly cut Australia’s drowning rate

2nd March 2021 - Gold Coast chief lifeguard Warren Young retires after 48 years of service

22nd December 2020 - Lifeguard Bruce Hopkins recognised at World Leader Summit

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22nd October 2020 - New Lifeguard pods could help save lives on beaches this summer

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14th July 2020 - Sunshine Coast expands lifeguard services to boost beach safety

19th March 2020 - Drownings fall across Australian summer of extremes

7th November 2019 - NSW lifeguards look to halt drownings of foreign swimmers this summer

26th September 2019 - Sutherland Shire lifeguards complete training in time for summer season  

22nd May 2019 - Federal Government won’t deliver on APOLA funding plea to reduce drownings

11th February 2019 - Politicians pledge funds but are they serious about water safety?

7th September 2018 - German lifeguards warn that child drownings linked to parents’ smartphone ‘fixation’

8th January 2018 - Royal Life Saving WA recognises quick-thinking lifeguards

24th December 2017 - Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguard Association issues beach safety reminder

19th December 2017 - Gold Coast Tourism recognises Lifeguard Warren Young with Honorary Life Member Award

16th December 2017 - New Sutherland Shire Council lifeguard tower helps in rescue of three female swimmers

15th December 2017 - Leading professional lifeguard says swim between flags message is ‘desirable but unrealistic’

12th January 2017 - Lifeguarding professionals act on ‘unprecedented’ NSW drowning toll with water safety camp

6th January 2017 - Bondi Rescue educates the world about beach safety

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