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Overcast and windy conditions were not enough to deter the more than 100 TAFE students from a diverse range of backgrounds from descending on Wollongong beach today for the opportunity to hear from experienced Surf Lifesavers and Lifeguards about the importance of beach safety.

Supported by the NSW Department of Justice, Thursday’s workshop continues the extensive work that Surf Life Saving NSW is doing with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities. With summer just around the corner it is important that students with English as a second language are familiar with the coastal environment.

Wollongong City SLSC was the venue for this vital pre-summer program which came from a need to reach populations that are often found to be at a higher risk of drowning.

Sadly, a number of drownings and rescues in the Illawarra region in recent years highlights the need for greater education on surf and beach safety for local and international students.

Some of the participants were from land-locked countries such as Laos and could not swim or had never seen the ocean until they arrived recently in Australia. Others shared stories about growing up learning that red flags on the beach signified danger and to stay away.

SLSNSW CEO Steven Pearce himself an Illawarra lifesaver said educating international visitors was an important part of the role of the modern lifesaver.

“We have so many people from different backgrounds visiting each weekend and we are always telling them the best place to swim and the importance of beach safety.

“Reaching as many students as possible before they ever head to the beach forms a key part of our educational strategy and it’s why we do programs such as this,” he said.

The Member for Heathcote Lee Evans was on hand to launch the program and noted that the topics covered were important for the students to embrace.

“The NSW Government is committed to ensuring people across the state understand the coastline and enjoy our beautiful beaches safely.

“More than 100 people from diverse backgrounds joined us today to learn about beach and water safety, rock fishing safety, the meaning of different types of beach flags, and sun smart principles,” Mr Evans said.

During the session Lifesavers and Lifeguards demonstrated some of the rescue equipment they use and talked about the dangers of rip currents and other hazards. A practical demonstration of CPR techniques was of great interest to the particpants.

SLSNSW Community Education Manager Mike Anderson said the program is a vital part of building a closer relationship with multicultural communities.

“We’re fortunate in Australia that the beach and coastal environment is very much a part of our lives and culture and it is easy sometimes to overlook that other nations do not have those same opportunities.

“If we can work with these communities and give them this information about how to keep safe at the beach before they head to the ocean then they can embrace and use this knowledge to make informed choices.

“Going forward we want to continue to work with CALD communities because as lifesavers we want everyone to be able to enjoy the beach safely,” Mr Anderson said.


Thursday 29 November 2018