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Monday, 15 June 2009
Page: 6043

Ms HALL (8:07 PM) —I acknowledge the contribution to the debate by both previous speakers, particularly the member for Blair for bringing this ever-so-important motion to the parliament tonight, and I do not think there would be a member in this House that did not support the sentiments that are expressed in this motion. Each and every year, particularly in the summer months, we hear of the drowning of young children in backyard pools. We hear about people who are swept out into the ocean when swimming where they should not be swimming. Time and time again we reflect on how this can be prevented.

The new Australian Water Safety Strategy was launched October last year and it was aimed at reducing drowning by 50 per cent. It was interesting to note the figures from the Royal Life Saving Association in their National Drowning Report 2007 which showed that 277 Australians died during 2006-07. That is a lot of Australians that have lost their lives and all of these deaths are preventable. There are some drastic steps that are needed to reduce the number of drowning fatalities and aquatic related injuries. That is the one aspect that this motion does not pick up on: for every child that drowns there are a number of other children that suffer and who are affected for the rest of their lives because they almost drowned.

The Shortland electorate is a coastal electorate. It is an electorate where the lifesaving movement is very strong. There are a number of excellent surf lifesaving clubs within the electorate: Redhead, Belmont Swansea, Caves Beach, Catherine Hill Bay and The Lakes. Each of these surf lifesaving clubs actually patrol those beaches and make them safe for the people that live in our area or who visit there on weekends or during the holiday period. It is also an area that attracts a lot of visitors.

There are very long stretches of surf and not all of the beaches are patrolled. You only have to walk along the beach to see that quite often there are nearly as many people swimming outside the flags as inside the flags. Yet the surf lifesaving clubs in my area—and I know in other regions as well—manage to pretty much keep that whole area safe and prevent people from drowning and losing their lives. So I think that one aspect of this motion that really needs to be noted here in this parliament tonight is the fine work that is done by surf lifesaving clubs, in the Shortland electorate and throughout Australia, in patrolling the beaches and preventing drownings, as well as visiting schools, providing education to students and teaching them about water safety. As has been previously identified, there are three key areas: children under five, which are those affected by the backyard pool drownings; men and alcohol—and I would say it is not only men and alcohol; people who are in that risk-taking age who do not take the proper care; and older people, 55-plus, and I must say I am in that category and, as a person that loves the surf and loves swimming, I will be a little bit more mindful of that now.

Another thing that I think is really important is emphasising water safety and making sure that every child learns to swim. From a very early age, children can be taught water safety. They need to be taken to the pool, they need to be taught to swim and they need to be taught survival techniques so that, if they fall in the pool, at least they can get themselves to the edge. Learning to swim can be quite expensive. I think it is really important that access to swimming lessons be made available to all children, because it will save our community a lot of money in the future. I commend the motion to the House.