As demands for beach patrols and ocean life-saving services grow, the Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguards Association (APOLA) has called for a new funding model for the delivery of beach safety.
Speaking at the APOLA national conference in Wollongong at the end of last week, Association life member Ken Holloway told media “we do an excellent job in drowning prevention and we've got a lot of people who are involved.
"However, the demographic is changing on our beaches. This is mainly due to immigration and refugees coming from countries which are sometimes landlocked and they've never been to a beach before. That's showing up in the drowning statistics."
The APOLA life member’s comments follow one of the deadliest seasons on record for beach drownings in Australia - during which 86 lives were lost, an increase of 30% from the previous summer.
While the volunteer-based Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) has the most high-profile role in beach safety, professional lifeguards employed by local government guard beaches up 265 days a year.
SLSA’s income comes from donations, fundraising and state and Federal Government, in contrast to the council funded professional lifeguards.
Explaining this role, Holloway added “(funding of professional lifeguards) always comes back to local councils who are the main providers of those services - including rubbish collection, first aid, parking, showers.
"Wollongong and other councils are struggling to fund the increase in demand for their services.
"If money was to come from both federal and state governments directly for wages and lifeguards we could allocate resources to areas that are becoming very popular.”
Speaking of funding, conference presenter Craig Riddington, founder of Surf Educators International (SEI), noted “governments allocate a lot of funding for water safety but a lot of it is wasted.”
Riddington also highlighted that professional lifeguards have often been excluded from policymaking on ocean safety.
Citing the Australian Water Safety Council (AWSC), which excludes professional lifeguards from its membership, Riddington added “where else would you see an area where the biggest experts are not recognised?”
Image courtesy of APOLA.
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2nd March 2021 - Gold Coast chief lifeguard Warren Young retires after 48 years of service
16th December 2020 - Senate report says local government is key to regional infrastructure investment
30th September 2020 - CQU researcher seeks input with study into drowning prevention strategies
22nd December 2020 - Lifeguard Bruce Hopkins recognised at World Leader Summit
30th July 2020 - New research has potential to reduce risk of drownings at Australian aquatic facilities
5th December 2019 - AUSTSWIM receives funding boost to combat multicultural drownings
2nd December 2019 - Rescue tubes trialled at Coffs Harbour beaches to help reduce drownings
2nd December 2019 - Victorian drowning report shows worst toll in 20 years
22nd May 2019 - Federal Government won’t deliver on APOLA funding plea to reduce drownings
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