Australian children would have access to swimming lessons under a national water safety plan rolled out by the Labor government.

The opposition leader of the Labor Party, Bill Shorten, promises to provide not only swim lessons, but also water safety courses, if elected. This program would provide funding for children in primary schools all across the nation.

The Labor Party proposes to spend $41 million on these safety courses and swim lessons to help prevent children drowning in the nation’s pools and beaches. Last year, a reportedly 270 people drowned in Australia’s waterways, which is why Shorten is looking for a “national approach to water safety”.

“The beach and water are so much part of Australia’s identity. We know that … from the beaches to the rivers to the backyard swimming pools Australian kids love the water,” Shorten told reporters on Sunday.

The Australian Federal Election will take place on July 2, 2016. National Coalition Party candidate Malcolm Turnbull will face off against Labor Party candidate Bill Shorten for all 226 seats in Parliament and control of the country.

“Too many children are not safe around water,’’ Mr Shorten said.

“There is considerable evidence that providing young children with training in swimming and water safety significantly reduces this risk.

“In many cases, the level of water safety education a child receives is dependent on where they live or their parents’ income.

“This inequity is even greater for indigenous children, who are less likely to achieve benchmarks compared to non-indigenous students. This is also the case for children not born in Australia.”

Royal Life Saving believes that the rapid increase in drowning in young adults aged 15-24 years is undeniably linked to a fall in the swimming and water safety skills of children in Australia over the past 10 years.

• 271 people drowned in Australian waterways between 1 July 2014 and 30 June 2015
• This year’s figure of 271 drowning deaths is an increase of 5 drowning deaths (or 1.9%) on the 266 drowning deaths recorded in 2013/14
• This is a reduction of 17 deaths (or 5.9%) on the 10 year average of 288 drowning deaths.

• 80% of all drowning deaths were male (216 drowning deaths)
• 20% of all drowning deaths were female (55 drowning deaths)
• 26 (10%) drowning deaths occurred in children aged 0-4 years
• 9 (3%) drowning deaths occurred in children aged 5-14 years
• 23 (9%) drowning deaths occurred in young people aged  15-24 years
• 89 (33%) drowning deaths occurred in people aged 55 years and over

There were 26 children between the ages of 0 and 4 years who drowned in Australia between 1 July 2014 and 30 June 2015. This is an increase of 6 drowning deaths (or 30%) on last year’s total of 20 drowning deaths. It is however a reduction of 4 deaths (or 13%) on the 10 year average of 30 drowning deaths (Figure 22).

Males accounted for 58% of drowning deaths in children under five in 2014/15. Swimming pools were the leading location for drowning in this age group, accounting for over half (54%), almost three times that of the next most common location. The category of lake / dam / lagoon was the only location to record an increase against the 10 year average (Figure 23).

Falls into water accounted for the vast majority of drowning deaths in this age group (81%). This was followed by bathing which claimed the lives of three children in 2014/15.

One fifth of all drowning deaths in this year’s Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report took place in the winter months, a time not often associated with aquatic activity.

Many teachers believe this will add more strain to an already over crowded curriculum if  implemented in schools. Parents believe a rebate for approved swimming lessons would possibly be the better option.

Do you support this push?

Share your comments below.

  • this is something that every child should have access to anyway. i swam through school and so have my kids


  • I think this is a fantastic idea. I remember having swimming lessons through my school in primary


  • This is an important issue, but I’m not at all sure I want it treated as an election issue.


  • All children should know how to swim. I think perhaps compulsary water safety classes through school and actual lessons be subsidised.
    Swimming lessons for one or 2 weeks a year through schools is not enough in my opinion


  • Things are going back to the days when all school children learnt how to swim I got taught through government education and loved it That was about 55 yrs ago So the good old days might be coming back next thing is they might go back to teaching children to read and write and spell


  • I thought all kids did swimming lessons through school anyway?

    • Exactly my thought. Unless they are talking about swimming lessons for a much extended time.


  • Some schools make arrangements and use the swimming pools in the local area that have lifeguards. I don’t know if they are taught by Swimming Centre Instructors or staff from the school. I have seen them arrive at and leave the Centre.


  • Great initivative i hope it doesnt end up like the solar panel one… with badly installed panels at primary schools


  • I definetly agree with this initiative.


  • I remember learning how to swim at primary school (many, many decades ago), but when it came to my daughter there was no such program, so I took her to swimming lessons at the local pool during the school holidays run by the Department of Sport and Recreation. Either option is good so long as children learn to swim. The first option puts more of a burden on already overworked teachers. The second option is better, so long as parents take their children for the entire program.


  • Isn’t it sad they have to use something so important for their votes increasing publicity bash for the next election?!?! Such a great idea, they should already be doing it, I hope they follow through with this and it doesn’t become yet another empty election promise


  • Look, I believe children should learn how to swim but why does it have to be in school time? Kids already have soooo much to do already! Why not subsidize the cost of swimming lessons in accredited swim schools?

    • Well said – such a better idea than the one proposed.


  • I support this idea and think every child will benefit from it as well.


  • My daughter always had compulsory swimming lessons when in primary school. One week a year or two weeks for a shorter period of time, depending on the school.


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