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More than 45 community groups, 90 languages of origin, 1,080 life jackets and nearly 20,000 people reached directly or otherwise – these are the numbers behind Surf Life Saving NSW’s Gone Fishing initiative, a report into the ground-breaking safety education program has revealed.

An initiative made possible with support from the NSW Government through the Department of Primary Industries, Gone Fishing is a practical program designed to better educate rock fishers on the safety measures and skills that can make the popular pastime a whole lot safer.

During the 2022-23 Surf Life Saving season, 10 coastal safety sessions were hosted at locations across NSW, including North Bondi, Shellharbour, Port Kembla and Port Stephens. In all, 3,737 people were directly educated through these sessions and various associated media, video packages and factsheets, while 18,300 are estimated to have been reached in all as a result of the program.

Importantly, of the people educated, 70 percent spoke a language other than English, 98 percent had worn their new lifejackets while rock fishing after attending a session, and 95 percent of those who attended learned new information about safety – a clear illustration of the program’s impact on at-risk and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities.

“People tend to associate Surf Life Saving with only volunteers on the beach and swimming between the flags, but our educational reach extends much further than that,” SLSNSW CEO, Steve Pearce said.

“Programs like ‘Gone Fishing’ are vital for our at-risk communities to learn valuable skills and be able to better understand the dynamic nature of the ocean and the dangers involved with rock fishing and how to ensure you protect yourself and your family.

“We’re very excited to see the positive results of these workshops, and even more encouraged by the anticipated ripple effect this will have both within these communities and on our coastal drowning statistics.”

In NSW from July 2021 to June 2022, 11 people lost their lives while rock fishing. For the same period in 2022-23, 6 people lost their lives while rock fishing.

Participants of the program heaped praise on its structure and informative nature.

“In Pakistan, we don’t have a lot of coastline there, so coming to Australia six months ago,  I’ve seen a lot of people fishing and I wanted to learn more, as safety is the first thing that comes to mind when you start a new hobby. It was a very informative session and I learned a lot and I’m looking forward to starting rockfishing,” Little Bay workshop participant Amna Awan said.

“Courses like this should be frequently happening, to help people in the community to build up their confidence, because safety is the priority for everyone,” Keyur, a North Bondi workshop participant from Parramatta agreed.

“We know we have had a positive impact on at-risk communities and hope this continues to be reflected in our coastal drowning toll moving forward,” Steve Pearce reiterated.


Wednesday 22 November 2023