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Delivering the message of beach safety remains the highest priority for the SLSNSW Community Education team, and with Refugee Week underway, it’s an appropriate time to reflect on the importance of these messages.

As Australians who have grown up in and around a coastal environment it is easy sometimes to take for granted the accessibility of the ocean, and to forget that other cultures and nationalities do not have the acquired knowledge to help keep themselves save at the beach.

It is for this reason that working with at-risk groups through programs such as the successful Blackspot Program which targets high school students from diverse backgrounds is viewed as a crucial part of an overall strategy in engaging with the community to help keep everyone safe. 

With statistics suggesting that each year the most at risk group of drowning is males aged in the 19-30 age group bracket reaching teenagers before they enter that demographic is incredibly important. 

Not only does the program aim to give surf safety tips and confidence in the ocean to young adults, but it also empowers them to become community leaders and share this newly acquired information with their families, thus reaching more people than would normally be possible.

The growth of community education has extended into diverse programs such a working with newly arrived international students and providing a regular service to new arrivals at Sydney Airport.

History will be made over the coming days as SLSNSW educators will be working with refugees through specific programs during refugee week itself for the first time.

Seven programs are booked out over the week, with an expected reach of approximately 600 people from diverse backgrounds to attend the sessions.

Each program will concentrate on beach safety and awareness and will pass on tips to the participants such as the importance of swimming between the flags, the role of the lifesaver, how to identify a rip, and how to signal for help if you do find yourself in distress.

Community Education Manager Joanne Massey believes the workshops and courses will benefit those who attend.

“Our mission is to provide a safe beach and aquatic environment throughout New South Wales. We exist to save lives, create great Australians and build better communities.

“We strongly believe that all Australian’s including new migrants, refugees and international visitors should have equal access to surf education,” said Ms Massey.

The programs are fully subsided by funding from the CALD Programs, which means no additional financial barriers will be faced by new refugees to Australia.

National Refugee Week takes place from June 18-24, and incorporates World Refugee Day on Wednesday 22 June

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Sunday 17 June 2018