Legislative Council: Wednesday, May 18, 2022


Royal Life Saving South Australia

The Hon. R.P. WORTLEY (15:41): Prior to the last election, I gave a commitment that I would donate the equivalent of the resettlement allowance paid to MPs who lose their preselection or their election. This is an entitlement paid to MPs who are not recipients of a parliamentary pension. The donation would be made to Royal Life Saving South Australia, regardless of whether I won or lost the position in the Legislative Council.

I chose the association because of the great work they do in teaching us how to swim, in particular our children. I have chosen to support multicultural swimming programs that aim to offer a variety of groups, including newly arrived refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and international students, the appropriate swimming skills to be safe in, on and around water. This will contribute to the prevention of the terrible drownings that we have been witnessing in the past years.

While I am sure nobody here today would question the importance of teaching young children how to swim and be safe around water, the previous Liberal government cancelled funding to the very body that exists to achieve those goals. They simply and inexplicably stopped funding Royal Life Saving South Australia. This is either a truly dangerous oversight or a shameful, calculated economic decision. Why dangerous? Because young children learn to swim in swimming pools, almost at the exclusion of every other possible option, and the last thing we should be doing is cutting the funding to the organisation that gives our children the skills to swim.

Children in their infancy do not and could not reasonably be expected to learn to swim among the waves, tides and rips of the ocean and other water bodies such as rivers. I do not know of many people who did not learn to swim in a swimming pool with someone watching over them every second of the day. That is where I, and I would assume virtually everyone else here today, learned to swim.

Last year, there were a frightening and distressing 294 drowning deaths across Australia, from the coast to the rivers and swimming pools. The number was up 20 per cent on the previous year. The 25 drowning deaths of infants aged up to four years was up a staggering 109 per cent. That is an additional 13 preschool children who drowned. Who in their right mind then would want to take away funding for a body that works to make children safer in the water and help reduce these terrible drownings?

The services provided by Royal Life Saving South Australia are invaluable. They include education, training, health promotion, home pool inspections to guarantee safety or give advice on ways to improve it, patrol services for inland waterways and Inclusive Swim, a program that helps people of all abilities learn to swim at a level at which they are comfortable. Royal Life Saving South Australia also supports Hills Swim School, a program based at Blackwood in which youngsters from surrounding Hills areas with limited access to pools and the beach are taught swimming and water safety skills.

While Royal Life Saving SA is expected to pass the tin around to raise funds for this tireless work, the previous Liberal government took the very strange step to close the Strathmont Centre pool. This is the facility set within an expanding inner north area, where many children, including those with disabilities, have for a long time learned to swim. So many children with disabilities received their vital therapeutic treatment that was also the only respite they received, which was obvious by the enthusiasm in the pool and the smiles on their faces.

I have held discussions with the CEO of Royal Life Saving SA, Jayne Minear, and I look forward to handing over my donation at the swimming class attended by our children from the multicultural community.