8 December 2022

Lifesaving is just as important in the river and the pool as it is at the ocean

| Chris Roe
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two people at the pool

Oasis Aquatics Supervisor Taileigh King and RLSNSW Riverina Manager Mick Dasey. Photo: Chris Roe.

Wagga’s groundbreaking Outback Lifesaver program is back in January for a third year running, teaching bush kids about water safety and lifesaving.

“It’s almost bringing the beach lifesaver component to the inland waterway and that’s what it’s about,” said Royal Life Saving Society’s Riverina Manager Mick Dasey.

“I believe that we are still the only regional area running this program in New South Wales.”

The initiative is open to swimmers aged between eight and 13 and provides an opportunity to develop an understanding of safety with a particular focus on inland waterways.

A study published by the Royal Lifesaving Association last year shows that 105 children aged between five and 14 years drowned in Australia between 2011/12 and 2020/21.

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There were almost 700 non-fatal drownings with the majority of incidents occurring in rivers, creeks, lakes and dams.

While the program includes a focus of swimming in natural environments, the river has been ruled out for this year.

“Unfortunately this year we have had to make the decision because of the uncertainty in the river conditions. We had to make a decision to bring it to Oasis,” said Oasis Aquatics Centre Supervisor Taileigh King.

“All the same skills that we teach in the program easily translate to the pool as well, so all the kids are gonna get the same skills.

“It’s just going to be in a more controlled environment.”

Mick says there are added advantages to using the pool.

“We’re not going to be influenced as much by prevailing weather conditions. So if there is a drop in the temperature at least here the water is probably a better temperature for involvement with young children,” he explained.

“With the closed, supervised environment here, there’s a greater capacity in regards to doing actual rescuing and what it’s like to actually have to pick somebody up off the bottom of the water environment.”

There are also a few tricks they can use to replicate river conditions for the swimmers.

“Instead of having the kids swim into a muddy water environment, we can colour out the goggles so it makes it a little bit of that same environment, but in a much safer place,” said Mick.

The program has also been distilled from eight Sundays in a row to an eight-day, hour a day schedule in January.

“Putting on an intensive and having it in the holidays, hopefully we don’t run into any bad weather and also it’s probably easier for parents,” Taileigh said.

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Both Mick and Taileigh agreed that the kids loved the chance to use the rescue boards.

“They love them,” Taileigh laughed.

“It’s a bit of a treat for them because obviously it’s not something that they would usually get to use, even in school programs and stuff.”

Registrations are now open and Mick said it was a unique opportunity for the kids and also for the parents to help out.

“Community support is critical for the program’s success and will give parents the opportunity to see firsthand how valuable water safety education is for their children.”

The 2023 program will run from 9 am to 10 am, with week one from Monday to Friday, 16–20 January and week two from Monday to Wednesday, 23–25 January 2023.

You can get more information and register here.

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