Water safety experts are calling for parents to enrol their children in swimming lessons ahead of summer, making up for time lost to the pandemic.
For Ripples Aquatics and Leisure Manager Rob Tweddle, safety comes as a very high priority.
“Here at Ripples, we take it extremely seriously in not just thinking about the swimming lessons, and being able to swim from A to B, but what water safety looks like, and what water safety looks like in the environments that people don’t necessarily consider as high-risk environments,” he said.
“People consider coming to the swimming pool and public pools as high risk – looking after your children, making sure that you’ve always got visibility and a line of sight to them – but sometimes lose sight of those water safety skills that you learn in your learn to swim lessons that prepare you for environments, even like the bathroom at home.”
It’s for this reason that he tried his best to stay connected with members throughout the COVID lockdowns, via online lessons and community programs.
However, even as the doors to the centre reopened, rules and restrictions regarding close contacts have prevented many from enrolling, or maintaining consistency upon their return.
“It’s been a trickle rather than the flood gates opening,” he said.
“Enquiry levels are probably back to pre-pandemic, but actual activations, and engagements, and regular and consistent attendance? Most definitely not.”
Now, as the warmer months loom, Mr Tweddle notes that it’s more important than ever to get back in the pool, particularly considering the increase in drowning deaths over the past few years.
“Now really is the time. By the time you get to summer, and you’re in and around water more, it’s too late,” he said.
“If you haven’t started the planning, and preparing, and knowledge, and awareness for your children, but also as parents, it’s probably too late to do that as you hit the summer months, and you’re already in those environments. The earlier you can start, the better.”
And it’s not just the kids who are in need of lessons, said Mr Tweddle, with parents the ones needing to be most aware of potential dangers around the water.
“It’s not just about learning to swim,” Mr Tweddle said.
“While it’s great to swim, and while it’s great to be able to keep yourself water safe, it’s also the other aspects and the other knowledge that you build around just being aware of water and aware around dangers, and our water safety programs definitely deliver those in abundance, but it’s not just specifically targeted to one age group.”
Cassidy Pearce is a news and entertainment journalist with The Western Weekender. A graduate of the University of Technology Sydney, she has previously worked with Good Morning Macarthur and joined the Weekender in 2022.