As the election campaign enters its second week one of our parties over the weekend made a policy announcement with some really good ideas.
Some good ideas.
It’s a policy that will appeal to many as it absolves them of responsibility. A policy that should be put in place no matter who wins the election – but one that doesn’t go far enough.
Can your kids swim?
There were 271 deaths due to drowning in 2015 with 26 of those of preschool-aged. Via IStock.
Do they go to lessons? Do they scream the place down with their resistance or are they gung ho natural fish?
Have you given up swimming lessons in despair after week upon week of tears and tantrums? Or have you just not bothered because well, your busy and life’s crazy and swimming lessons are damn expensive.
For some families swimming lessons aren’t much of a big deal. You book the kids in, you diligently attend each week, you spend a fortune on goggles as they keep on losing them and your kids learn to swim.
For other families it’s harder. They work. There is no time. The swim centres are too far away. The kids hate the water.
They say 'It should be the schools responsibility anyway.'
These families are wrong and they're doing their children a disservice.
For other families it’s harder. They work. There is no time. The swim centres are too far away. The kids hate the water. Via iStock.
Yesterday in an election pledge Opposition Leader Bill Shorten promised $40 million to ensure swimming lessons are available in all states and all public, Catholic and independent schools. The program would include water safety lessons in the classroom and swimming lessons in the pool from 2017 with the details of the classes to be worked out in consultation with the states.
It’s a good plan. A good start. A much needed policy in an area which has been directionless for years. An area where lives have been lost, where indigenous kids and those new to Australia desperately need such programs even if it will be difficult to fit into an already over-crowded curriculum.
"Labor will make sure that every Aussie kid gets the chance to learn how to swim," Mr Shorten told reporters.
And with 270 deaths from drowning last year alone its plan we need.
According to Royal Life Saving many children leave primary school without being able to swim 50 metres or float for 2 minutes. These are skills Royal Life Saving describe as a basic right of every child living in Australia and they say are mandatory if we are to halve drowning by 2020.
The need for swimming lessons right throughout our children’s primary school years is difficult to argue against - and for those who may have just arrived in Australia vital - but you have to question whether this is too late.
The Royal Life Saving Society's annual drowning report for 2015 showed a 30 per cent national increase in drownings of children aged under five last year – children who had not yet started school. The report recorded 271 deaths due to drowning in 2015 with 26 of those of preschool-aged.
It was 30 per cent increase on the 20 young children who died in the previous year.
While the Opposition’s plan is something that should be put into place no matter who wins the upcoming election what also needs to happen is for parents to step up and take responsibly for ensuring their children learn to swim before they start school.
Watch a mother faces criticism for posting this video online of her six-month-old daughter struggling to stay afloat when she fell into a pool face first. Post continues after video...
It is not too young.
By the age of two my three children could swim a few strokes at least to the edge if they fell in a pool. By the age of three they could all swim across a pool, confidently, and it is only because they had continuous lessons from when they could walk.
It was bloody hard and painful. A right old pain in the arse at times. Screaming kids, stinky towels, tantrums over the pool being too cold in winter and them being too tired in summer. But you know what my kids did? They learnt to suck it up and go.
If you can get your child to ballet and soccer and baby yoga and Mini Roos then you can fit in a weekly swimming 'lesson.Via IStock.
Of course not all families are as lucky. Not all families can afford weekly swimming lessons and yes parents work and life is busy.
But if you can get your child to ballet and soccer and baby yoga and Mini Roos then you can fit in a weekly swimming lesson.
If you can get yourself to the gym for some “me time” twice a week or to the mall for some retail therapy you’ve got time to get your child to swimming lessons.
They might take to it like a – yep - a duck or they might holler the place down, but with every lesson they are at least one step closer to surviving should they come into trouble.
Bill Shorten’s $40 million announcement yesterday has its merits but other initiatives are needed to sit along with such a plan.
There needs to be a greater investment in aquatic facilities in regional areas and parents need to wake up to their role in this and make an effort to have their children taught how to swim before more lives are lost.