The unprecedented number of drownings over this Christmas holiday period is a wake-up call to the federal government to make a national water safety education program for our children an urgent priority.
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In this water-worshipping nation, with our countless beaches and ubiquitous backyard pools, it is unbelievable that many children will never have early exposure to water safety education.
There simply aren't any nationally recognised or mandated programs for children under four, and swimming lessons aren't mandatory.
Yes, parents and carers certainly have a responsibility to ensure children are safe around water. But the reality is that for many families, swimming lessons are not accessible due to cost or locality.
According to the Royal Life Saving Society's National Drowning Report 2016, 11 children aged between 5-14 died in Australian waterways over a 12-month period to July – this is two more than in the previous year.
Since this report was released, there have been more.
Given we are less than halfway through the summer, the thought that this death toll could rise further is staggering.
Astonishingly, it's thought that three out of five Australian children leave primary school without basic swimming skills.
This means that more than half of all Australian 12-year-olds don't have any training to draw upon to save their lives if they come into danger in the water.
Just as we teach children to walk, talk, to learn their ABCs and basic maths, we need to educate them about water and its dangers, from backyard pool risks through to how to avoid rips in the ocean.
We simply can't waste any more time debating whether this issue deserves a piece of the government funding pie. The tragedy of these recent drowning deaths have shown that we must act now.
We need to work together and we need the federal government to make this happen.
So let's add swimming to the school curriculum. Let's make swimming lessons a reality for all toddlers and preschoolers. Let's get into day cares, playgroups and preschools and teach kids the basic skills they will need to be safe in the water.
All Australian kids, regardless of their background, address or means, deserve the skills to survive.
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