Youngsters get a taste of open-water scenarios at Ballarat Aquatic and Lifestyle Centre to play safer this summer

AWARE: Instructor Bill Reddick helps Clunes pupil Amelia learn open-water safety techniques in a simulated program at Ballarat Aquatic and Lifestyle Centre for Water Safety Week. Picture: Lachlan Bence
AWARE: Instructor Bill Reddick helps Clunes pupil Amelia learn open-water safety techniques in a simulated program at Ballarat Aquatic and Lifestyle Centre for Water Safety Week. Picture: Lachlan Bence

SLIMY-looking dark weed beds made of plastic, slippery banks and an overturned inflated boat offered young swimmers a chance to build open-water skills.

Ballarat Aquatic and Lifestyle Centre is taking primary school children through simulated scenarios in the safety of their pools to promote water safety.

BALC aquatic education team leader Leanne White said with holidays and warm weather approaching – the time when most Ballarat people go camping on rivers or near the beach – the program was an important reminder for families to play it safer by the water this summer.

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“Even though all the activities are water-based for the kids, there are displays for parents to really highlight safe practice around water,” Ms White said.

“The other thing we’re really pushing with parents are the words ‘your child, your focus’. We can put up all the barriers and safety equipment we can, but nothing beats supervision.”

The award-winning Aquatics and Recreation Victoria program, initially developed in Ballarat, is running as part of Water Safety Week.

This is the first time, in a long time, the program has run in full at BALC.

Ms White said it was vital to learn good safety skills at a young age and the program was a handy reminder for parents.

There were 291 drownings in Australia in the 2016-17 financial year. Of these deaths, 97 were in inland waterways like rivers, creeks, streams, lakes and dams.

Open water environments can change suddenly with weather but Ms White said in many incidents, falling in the water was unexpected and it was important to know how to adapt and quickly.

Pupils from primary schools across the region, including Clunes and Trawalla, have been working in small teams through different water scenarios, including how to read information, regulation and warning signs by bodies of water.

Dads got in the water fully clothed with their children in the early morning aquatic sessions to really get a feel for simulations.

Ms White said this week was a great chance for parents to visit BALC and double-check they had the most appropriate safety gear, like life jackets, for their child, and to see life-sized displays of pool fencing regulations.

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