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In response to research that highlighted 50 percent of people rescued from the surf live more than 50km from the beach, volunteer surf lifesavers have been visiting schools in rural and remote areas of NSW for the last 26 years to educate primary school students about beach safety as a part of Surf Life Saving NSW’s iconic Beach to Bush initiative.​

Established in 1994, the Beach to Bush program has educated more than 250,000 primary school students. The opportunity to engage with a real-life lifesaver is a first-time experience for many participants and comes at a timely point in the year as their families plan coastal visits with summer holidays around the corner.

Due to widespread interest and an immeasurable need for surf safety education with more people staying home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time in 2020 the Beach to Bush program took place over four back-to-back weeks. Across three weeks, 35 experienced and enthusiastic lifesavers volunteered their time to travel 13,289kms across NSW in 11 tour groups. They visited 73 schools and delivered 108 presentations to 9,024 students.

Each presentation covered topics including beach signage, spotting rips, marine life, first aid, asking a lifesaver for assistance and sun safety. To encourage involvement, the presenters had students participate by inviting them to hold up surf safety signage, asking their classmates to spell key lifesaving words, dressing up in a lifesaver uniform and rescuing their peers from the audience who have their hand raised for assistance.

Due to COVID-19 social distance requirements - and to accommodate schools further inland - the fourth week of the 2020 Beach to Bush program saw the introduction of virtual sessions. These virtual sessions, along with various post event interactive worksheets, ensured the knowledge gained from the Beach to Bush program was reinforced and retained.

The Beach to Bush program is vitally important in providing NSW rural and remote communities with the knowledge they need to enjoy the beach safely.

Hillvue Public School teacher, Joanna Reeve, said that it's important when children and their families visit the beach for the first time, that they understand how to do so safely.

“Many children here don’t have the opportunity to go to the beach, so when they do, it will be a very special occasion. The program gives them the educational support and skills to make sure that they’re safe at the beach,” said Joanna.

Volunteer surf lifesaver presenter Andrea Malm, from Freshwater SLSC, acknowledged the excitement the Beach to Bush program brings to the kids in the rural and remote communities of NSW.

“A highlight was definitely visiting Taqwa School last year, where about three kids had been to the beach," said Andrea. "This year, about 95 percent of students had visited the beach and I’d say with confidence that it was thanks to the Beach to Bush visit last year!”

Surf Life Saving NSW would like to acknowledge the Beach to Bush 2020 lead sponsor, the Deputy Premier and the NSW Government as well as supporting sponsor, Your local club, for their ongoing support which makes this program possible.

Thursday 17 December 2020