LUKE GOSLING: We want ev­ery child to learn how to swim, re­gard­less of post­code or fam­ily in­come

Sunday Territorian - - OPINION -

THE cricket is on TV, cheap mar­ket man­goes are in abun­dance and shop­ping cen­tre carparks are spilling into sur­round­ing sub­urbs. It’s Christ­mas time!

It’s at this time of year that I re­flect on the things that are im­por­tant and as a fa­ther of two young chil­dren, it’s about keep­ing kids safe.

For many Ter­ri­to­ri­ans, Christ­mas is syn­ony­mous with wa­ter. Whether it is head­ing south to visit fam­ily and go­ing to the beach, head­ing to Bali or re­lax­ing in the back­yard pool on stay­ca­tion, we’re a na­tion of wa­ter lovers.

That’s why wa­ter safety is a key fo­cus of the La­bor Gov­ern­ment’s and mine. I re­cently hosted a swim­ming and wa­ter safety round ta­ble at Ca­sua­r­ina Surf Club, seek­ing in­put from com­mu­nity stake­hold­ers and ex­perts for their ad­vice on how we can im­prove our na­tional swim safety pol­icy.

Lat­est statis­tics have the Ter­ri­tory with the high­est drown­ing rate per capita in the na­tion. While the North­ern Ter­ri­tory Gov­ern­ment is lead­ing the way with in­no­va­tive pro­grams such as “Learn to Swim” vouch­ers pro­vid­ing chil­dren un­der five with $200 of free swim­ming les­sons a year, more sup­port from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is needed.

At the mo­ment, swim­ming les­sons are not com­pul­sory for North­ern Ter­ri­tory school­child­ren. The Royal Life Sav­ing So­ci­ety’s Swim and Sur­vive pro­gram is pro­vided to about two thirds of the Ter­ri­tory’s gov­ern­ment schools, but the high cost of trans­port to swim- ming pools is a bar­rier to ac­cess for some schools.

I was dis­ap­pointed to hear re­cently that some Dar­win and Palmer­ston kids will never get to one les­son. We want ev­ery child to learn how to swim, re­gard­less of their post­code or their fam­ily’s in­come.

While I will keep work­ing hard to im­ple­ment pol­icy change at the fed­eral level. There are im­me­di­ate steps we as par­ents and guardians can take to en­sure the safety of our chil­dren and friends at Christ­mas.

For the Ter­ri­to­ri­ans head­ing in­ter­state, stay safe by watch­ing out for the surf life savers’ in­struc­tions and swim­ming be­tween the flags.

For those splashing around in the Ter­ri­tory, we must re­mem­ber not to get com­pla­cent at home. Although my kids get reg­u­lar les­sons, we know it’s no sub­sti­tute for adult su­per­vi­sion. Mon­soonal rain gets the storm wa­ter run­ning and we all know how dan­ger­ous those drains can be.

We’ve also seen the tragedy of chil­dren drown­ing in Bali, where pool safety re­quire­ments are dif­fer­ent to Aus­tralian stan­dards.

One Ter­ri­tory-based web­site, “Grow­ing up Troppo” is ad­dress­ing the wa­ter safety is­sue. Listed on the web­site are the de­tails of vil­las with fencing, along with rec­om­men­da­tions of com­pa­nies that of­fer tem­po­rary pool fencing for hire.

Fi­nally, while we look out for our kids, we need to be look­ing out for our mates, too, par­tic­u­larly if we’re hav­ing a few drinks. Last year’s fig­ures for the Top End had 25 to 34year-old males record­ing the high­est num­ber of drown­ings.

This is a tragedy and sadly of­ten avoid­able.

To­day I fly to Canberra for the last Par­lia­men­tary sit­tings of the year.

The Ter­ri­tory needs a fed­eral gov­ern­ment that’s not fo­cused on them­selves, but in­stead on what is im­por­tant to ev­ery­day Aus­tralians. Whether that means pro­tect­ing our GST share, new jobs through sup­port of our in­dus­tries, or in­deed proper fed­eral school fund­ing that will pre­pare our kids for the fu­ture and make sure they can keep their heads above wa­ter.

Luke Gosling is the La­bor fed­eral mem­ber for Solomon

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