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Surf Life Saving NSW’s education program goes virtual for the first time

Surf Life Saving NSW’s education program goes virtual for the first time
December 1, 2021

Surf Life Saving NSW’s flagship education program - Beach to Bush - is going virtual this week for the first time, exposing nearly 9,000 primary school students to crucial beach and water safety lessons through the new medium. 

The Beach to Bush Program is the largest and most innovative surf safety education program in Australia, having reached more than 255,000 primary school students since it began in 1994.

Reimagined as a result of ongoing uncertainty in the wake of COVID,  79 rural and remote schools are currently taking part in a week of fun and activities designed to engage with the students and keep them informed of safe beach practices.

Gone, this year, are the traditional school visits, where volunteer surf lifesavers ‘go bush’ to speak with the students directly. Instead, six ‘coastal hubs’ are hosting virtual sessions, with six presenters set to give more than 100 presentations over the course of the week.

In 2021, the program will run from Broulee Surfers SLSC, Swansea Belmont SLSC, Shelly Beach SLSC, Cudgen Headland SLSC, Dee Why SLSC and the SLSNSW State Office in Belrose.

SLSNSW Community Education Manager, Julia Kiss said this year was special not only in respect to the effort put into adapting the program to be delivered virtually, but because it will now tie in with National Water Safety Week.

Kiss notes “by incorporating National Water Safety Week and National Water Safety Day, which falls in the middle of the week on December 1 – the first day of summer – we feel that this adds another element to what is already an important program for so many young Australians.

“Every year more and more families are heading to the coastline for holidays, and this has grown exponentially since the COVID-19 pandemic. Educating young Australians in safe beach practices grows with it.

“For many children, attending the Beach to Bush classes will be their first interaction with a surf lifesaver in an iconic red and yellow patrol uniform. Some have never actually been to the coast or swum in the ocean, let alone learnt about beach rips and dangerous marine species.

“This is the 28th year of the Beach to Bush program and it feels like every year it’s getting bigger and better and we’re engaging with more students in an educational capacity, which is one of our core goals.”

The coastal safety program has been carefully designed by SLSNSW educators to ensure the lesson content is age-appropriate. Children from registered schools who are taking part will learn about the role of surf lifesavers, why they should always swim between the flags, how to spot a rip current, what to do if you get into trouble at the beach and the different types of marine life that can be found along the coast.

The program also includes information about water safety on inland waterways such as lakes, rivers and dams.

The NSW Government (through the Deputy Premier’s Discretionary Fund) and Your local club have once again provided financial support for the Beach to Bush program.

Clubs NSW Chief Executive Josh Landis said that the club industry is enormously proud of its long and close association with Surf Life Saving NSW - especially their support of the Beach to Bush educational program.

Image courtesy surflifesaving.com.au/

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