Advance Diversity Services collaborated to bring Water Safety Week online this November-December to help save lives this summer.

‘Life saving organisations say there has been a 20 per cent spike in drowning deaths around Australia in the past year, with the impact of the pandemic partly to blame,’ said Jenny Tang, ADS’s representative on the South East Sydney Multicultural Water Safety Committee.

‘We also know that people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities in Australia are at greater risk of drowning due to differences in the way they see water recreation and unfamiliarity with the dangers of Australian waterways. Many new arrivals also have low or no swimming ability.

‘The free sessions in Water Safety Week have been open to everyone – but we’ve been particularly keen for migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and international students to tune in to ensure they can safely enjoy pools, beaches, rivers and lakes with their family and friends.’

Free Water Safety Week workshops help people from multicultural communities learn how to keep themselves and their families safe so they can enjoy pools, beaches and rivers this summer.

In 2021, Water Safety Week ran from November 29 to December 3. It gave participants the chance to hear from experts about rock fishing and fishing safety, spotting danger and hazards at the beach, staying safe in swimming pools, rivers and lakes and doing CPR and First Aid.

The committee hopes these educational sessions will help drive down critical incidents and disturbing statistics, which include a 20 per cent jump in drowning deaths, an increase of 150 per cent in rescue-related incidents, and the rise by more than half of drowning in inland rivers and waterways.

The South East Sydney Multicultural Water Safety Committee is comprised of water safety education organisations, local councils, education providers, and local community service providers. 

‘We recognise that during the Greater Sydney lockdown water skills will have declined and swimming lessons been abandoned due to pool closures and fear of contracting COVID-19,’ Ms Tang said.

‘But we also know that post-lockdown, as the weather gets warmer, people will flock to beaches, rivers and pools.

‘Our free sessions are one way we’re helping people to stay safe in these environments. Two others are: the Water Safety Directory Website we launched last year, which offers a wealth of water safety resources that can be filtered by language, location, and type; and the information sessions we’re running for people to become bilingual water safety volunteers.’

Surf Life Saving also has a new community hub, which has resources available in 21 languages:

Water Safety Week is a collaboration between: Advance Diversity Services, Department of Primary Industries, Gymea Community Aid and Information Service, Randwick City Council, Recreational Fishing Alliance of NSW, Royal Life Saving New South Wales, Surf Life Saving New South Wales, Sutherland Shire Council, Maritime NSW and Waverley Council.

The South East Sydney Multicultural Water Safety Committee includes representatives from Surf Life Saving NSW, Royal Life Saving NSW, Randwick City, Waverley, Bayside, Georges River, Sutherland Shire Councils, ADS, Asian Women at Work Inc, Gymea Community Aid and Information Service, Kogarah Community Services and TAFE NSW.