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Conference sees APOLA ride a wave of change

Conference sees APOLA ride a wave of change
May 24, 2022

The Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguard Association’s 2022 conference held at URBNSURF Melbourne has seen the body adopt a new name - the Australian Pool and Ocean Lifeguard Association (APOLA) - in an effort to broaden its membership and influence.  

The conference also saw the election of Bruce ‘Hoppo’ Hopkins as APOLA President.

Commenting on the Association expanding its membership base, Hopkins explains “lifeguards play a vital role in the safety of millions of people who use  waterways, pools and the coast every day.

“Lifeguards’ expertise and experience should be valued as they play a vital role in water safety which is often overlooked by Government and the industry.”

Working with the Australian Water Safety Council (AWSC) will be a priority for APOLA in supporting the AWSC aspirational goal of reducing drowning in Australia by 50% by 2030.

APOLA voted at the conference for the second year running to endorse the water safety message Float to Survive as a primary message.

The floating message has had great success in the United Kingdom in helping to reduce drowning according to the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI). The Float to Live campaign was rolled out four years ago on the back of empirical evidence carried out at Portsmouth University in the United Kingdom by Professor Mike Tipton.

Professor Tipton’s work involved studying the various stages of drowning. If a person finds themselves in deep water the shock of immersion can see the victim thrash around and use valuable energy rather than fighting their instinct to struggle and simple roll on their back and float. By simply floating the chance of survival in water is greatly increased according to Professor Tipton’s research.

By having APOLA as an industry body which will listen to the concerns of working lifeguards and to provide a forum where all matters relating to water safety can be discussed and outcomes reached without the restrictions of a higher ruling body is a healthy move forward for the industry.

The last organisation to represent both pool and ocean lifeguards was formed back in 1956. It was called the Pool Attendant and Beach Inspector Organisation but faded away by the mid 1960s leading to the formation of the Institute of Professional Lifeguards in 1973 now known as APOLA according to Ken Holloway a founding member of APOLA.

Local council lifeguards and APOLA have driven change and improvement in ocean safety in Australia for decades according to APOLA National Training Officer, Ian Lee.

Lee advised “from new physical standards introduced in the seventies, to adapting the malibu surfboards for rescue work in the sixties and now developing the ‘Smart Beaches’ program in 2022, lifeguards have played a major role in improving ocean safety.”

APOLA also sees that the aquatic industry is rapidly changing.

Many Local Councils are looking for different options when renewing aging aquatic assets or considering ways to increase revenue by adding facilities like wave pools. APOLA members have an abundance of experience and expertise in managing pools and beaches. APOLA will be knocking on the door of all those involved in water safety to help them in their efforts to reduce drownings and serious injuries or how to develop their assets.

The Australian Pool and Ocean Lifeguard Association Inc (APOLA Inc) is a non-profit peak water safety association for lifeguards. It promotes and supports best practice in water safety and aquatic asset management in consultation with Councils and those working in the industry.

APOLA extends an invitation to any person or organisation to join who have an interest in aquatic safety.

The next APOLA conference will be hosted by the Gold Coast City Council in May 2023.

Images: APOLA Conference delegates at URBNSURF Melbourne (top) and new APOLA President Bruce ‘Hoppo’ Hopkins (below).

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