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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 2855

Mr CONROY (Shortland) (10:08): I second the motion. I am pleased to make a contribution on the member for Groom's motion, and I thank him for bringing it to the House. It is a very important issue that has a bipartisan commitment to solve. Sadly, in the last week, we have seen the drowning deaths of three young children, and I start by passing on my condolences to the families, friends, communities and emergency services involved in those tragic losses. At the recent launch of the Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report, the latest figures revealed that 280 people were drowned in waterways in Australia in the last financial year—an increase of five per cent on the previous year. Ninety-six of the 280 people who lost their lives were in New South Wales alone. The report also found that 86 per cent of drowning deaths were male, the highest percentage in the past 10 years—indicating an element of risk-taking, I think—and that most of the drowning deaths occur at beaches.

In the electorate of Shortland, we are fortunate to be surrounded by some of the finest beaches in Australia as well as Lake Munmorah, Budgewoi Lake and Lake Macquarie, the largest saltwater lake in the Southern Hemisphere. These natural bodies of water are in abundance, but the key message is that we must be vigilant while enjoying these magnificent natural wonders.

Those of us who represent coastal communities in this place know how fundamentally important surf lifesaving clubs are. They are an integral and important part of our community and the way we live. We as Australians are fortunate that so many of us live so close to the beach. Thankfully I have five exceptional surf lifesaving clubs in the electorate of Shortland—Redhead, Swansea-Belmont, Caves Beach, Catherine Hill Bay and The Lakes—which I gladly share with the member for Dobell. All these clubs have an outstanding record of keeping our beaches safe, and I pay tribute to the dedication and commitment of all the volunteers at those clubs. Our local community and communities all around Australia are a better and safer place because of the commitment and sacrifice of these generous people—including, I hazard to guess, members in inland electorates such as Groom—when they visit beaches and enjoy the protection that surf lifesavers provide.

Surf lifesaving clubs provide vigilance and service through their patrols, water safety training and awareness education, commencing with their Nippers program. These clubs are run by volunteers who take the time to provide patrols for our beaches and the necessary training for young Nippers and junior surf lifesavers so that people can feel safe at the beach. Like so many children growing up on the Central Coast, I was a Nipper. This training gave me a great awareness of beach safety and confidence in the water. I look forward to my two kids, if they are interested, becoming Nippers in due course as well and to helping out with that particular activity. As the Nipper season has commenced, I encourage more children to enjoy Nippers and to be active in and around the beach. I encourage my young constituents to join a local lifesaving club. Hopefully as more children who are introduced to water awareness around beaches, lakes, rivers and other waterways from a young age, we will see a reduction in the incidence of drowning deaths.

This, with greater CPR and emergency first aid training, can only assist with providing immediate care. This is very important for parents and family members as they often can be the first person on the scene of an emergency. The Australian Water Safety Strategy encourages a collaborative approach that aims to reduce the number of drowning deaths by 50 per cent. This strategy identifies seven drowning prevention pillars: advocacy, research, collaboration, safe venues, workforce, policy and education. These pillars will play a key role in the commitment to drowning prevention in Australia, and I encourage this approach, with the collaboration of peak water safety bodies.

This parliament has a very important role in all seven pillars. I am a proud member of the Parliamentary Friends of Surf Life Saving, which plays a great role in raising awareness and support for our surf lifesaving clubs. I congratulate RLS, the Surf Life Saving society and other community groups for their work in educating Australians on the potential dangers of all our beaches and waterways. And I congratulate and thank all the volunteers who provide vigilance and service to their communities as surf lifesavers, both the volunteers at our surf lifesaving clubs and the paid staff employed by councils to do a great job during the working week. However, I do want to especially acknowledge the volunteers of the five surf lifesaving clubs in Shortland that dedicate a significant part of their time to our community so that we can all feel safe at the beach. Finally, I again extend my thoughts and condolences to the families, friends and communities who have been touched by the tragedy of drowning over the past year.