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Surf lifesavers call for more funds for education programs to reduce drownings
Surf lifesavers are looking to Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott to deliver on his Federal election campaign pledge to boost funding for water safety and education initiatives.
Reiterating a Coalition commitment made in March, as of Sunday 11th August the Prime Minister-elect upped his funding promise for water-safety initiatives from the $10 million announced in March to $15 million.
Surf lifesaving organisations are looking forward to the backing as they cite a lack of funding as being directly linked to an increase in the number of people drowning in Australia's coastal waters
Surf Life Saving Australia says there were 119 coastal drowning deaths in Australia in 2011/2012, a rate higher than the eight-year average of 92.
Surf Life Saving Australia acting Chief Executive, Peter George, says the figures are concerning, telling the ABC this week that the figures "were up overall last year and this year's statistics - which are about to be released - are also in line with last year's so the last two years are up on the five-year average.
"It is concerning. We're doing a lot of analysis around where the drowning is occurring."
George told the ABC that education is vital to Surf Life Saving Australia's programs, adding "if people understand the risk they are taking, particularly around rock fishing and rip currents, and know that from an education point of view what to look for, we can certainly reduce the number of drownings around Australia.
"There's very good support from a wide range of sponsors and the Government and the local communities.
"We could always do with more money because effectively what we're trying to do is extend our services and improve our education systems and get more relevant information into more places, more of the time, and that does take money."
Last summer, 17 people died on West Australian beaches, more than double the number for the previous summer.
Surf Life Saving WA Chief Executive Paul Andrew told the ABC that drownings should be decreasing, stating "drowning numbers are up ... in our last season there were some 17 drownings.
"The previous year was about half of that ... I think there was about eight drownings."
Andrew believes that educating school children is the key to preventing beach deaths, but a lack of funding means lifesavers cannot spread their message as broadly as they would like.
He adds "it's very successful when we get out into schools.
"But we're only capturing a small proportion of those schools at this point in time.
"It gets down to funding because obviously we need to be charging schools a small nominal fee to go out there and school budgets are pretty tight nowadays."
Andrew says significant funding is needed, concluding "overall we're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars to get out there and do it properly."
For more information go to www.sls.com.au
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