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Federal Government won’t deliver on APOLA funding plea to reduce drownings

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

Australia’s leading professional ocean safety organisation has been told by the Federal Government that, despite ongoing funding commitments to volunteer lifesavers, there will be no extra funding to help local lifeguards.

Amid a near-record year for ocean drownings, Greg Hackfath, President of the Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguard Association (APOLA), wrote to Federal Minister for Sport Bridget McKenzie earlier this year questioning the Government’s water safety funding allocations and asking for extra help in the light of a rise in deaths

As reported by Australasian Leisure Management in February this year, his letter stated “there needs to be a re-think in the allocation of funds for water safety”, adding “if State and Federal Governments really wants to make a difference in reducing drowning rates then State and Federal Government need to provide specific funding to Local Government to increase lifeguard service operations at beaches. Local Government will never afford to do all this on their own, they need help.

“A more realistic model that needs to be implemented should be a… new fund being made available direct to Local Government to address the summer black spots and needs created annually with tourists flocking to beaches.

“Such funding will allow local government to be more strategic with the placement of additional lifeguards during peak demand periods, and particularly so in regional areas during the December-January peak.”

The Federal Government has already provided a total $61 million in program and support funding to groups such as Surf Life Saving Australia and Royal Life Saving Society - Australia - $36.9 million of which has come from Senator McKenzie’s sport portfolio.

However, Federal and State funds are directed towards volunteer lifesavers rather than professional lifeguards, such as those represented by APOLA who are paid by local councils and, in a number of locations, patrol local beaches on a more frequent basis.

Responding to APOLA before the Federal election, Minister McKenzie detailed the funding the Federal Government has provided volunteers for technology and training but said nothing more could be done to support lifeguards paid by local governments.

In an email to Hackfath reported by, Senator McKenzie advised “the Australian Government has a longstanding history of supporting water safety initiatives.

“Regarding your specific resourcing request to fund local governments directly, unfortunately there is no additional funding available within the sport portfolio at this time.”

John Andrews, APOLA National Secretary and Treasurer, told that professional lifeguards patrol local beaches on five or seven-day rosters as part of services that are provided year-round at some beaches

He said that was enough reason for state and Federal Governments to provide extra funding to local governments for the lifeguards, on top of the money already given to groups such as Surf Life Saving and Royal Life Saving Australia.

Andrews advised “why isn’t there a fund available for councils to apply to and receive monies to help (them) deal with the fact that there are more and more people going to local beaches and we’ve got to have a shared responsibility.

“I don’t think it’s good enough for a federal or state government just to allocate monies to one organisation and expect that organisation to have all the answers.

“The mix or the expectation of government to just give grants to only a few organisations, it just doesn’t seem to be a very effective way to go about conducting business.”

APOLA’s calls come after months of ongoing pleas from Australia’s leading lifesaving bodies for more action to help prevent drownings, including the urgent implementation of water safety video messages on every flight in the country.

Images: Greg Hackfarth (top, courtesy of Coffs Coast Focus) and a professional lifeguard at Bonid Beach (below, courtesy of APOLA).

Related Articles

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

7th February 2019 - Surf Life Saving Australia receives funding for its Seniors fitness program

31st December 2018 - Federal Minister says number of holiday drownings is unacceptably high 

22nd December 2018 - Surf Life Saving NSW jet ski fleet boosted to increase beach safety for swimmers

10th December 2018 - Lotterywest provides $700,000 to Surf Life Saving WA to support nippers program

7th December 2018 - Australian Water Safety council addresses drowning among multicultural communities

12th September 2018 - Drowning Deaths decrease but Life Saving bodies urge against water safety complacency

2nd May 2018 - Federal Government commits $36.9 million to water safety initiatives

19th January 2018 - Australian lifesaving drone in world first ocean rescue

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

15th November 2017 - Gold Coast lifeguard numbers to be increased to cope with Commonwealth Games visitors

27th December 2015 - Professional Lifeguards highlight need for safety first at the beach

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