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