A devastating drowning rate nearly 20% higher than the entirety of NSW, on a patch of coastline shorter than Mona Vale to Manly, is behind a partnership between Surf Life Saving NSW and India – focussed on increased awareness of safe swimming practices.
Surf Life Saving Services, the business arm of SLSNSW, is delivering training as part of a partnership with the Indian Rescue Academy – the product of a relationship that goes back nearly a decade through a range of projects focussed on drowning prevention.
A well-established Indian training organisation with a focus on water safety, disaster management, first aid and lifeguard training, the IRA and SLSNSW hope the partnership will increase water safety and drowning prevention capabilities across the region through training and the development of water safety standards.
SLSNSW International Programs and Business Coordinator, Steve Allan said the 10-day trip had many purposes – not least of which was to help address a staggering statistic.
“There’s a 14km stretch on the east coast of India, Marina Beach to Neelankarai in Chennai that over a 10-year period between 2010 and 2020 there were 580 drownings,” he said.
“In New South Wales, Australia during the same time frame, and covering over 2,137 km of coastline, there were 481 drownings.
“It shows that swimming isn’t part of the culture, therefor water safety and drowning prevention is not either.”
As part of the visit, Steve met with local government authorities including the Australian Consulate, Australian High Commission, NSW Business Chamber and the Indian Department of Fisheries at state and federal level.
“Part of the reason I was there was to audit their practices, check that the trainers are providing first aid and water safety courses to Australian standards, so we ticked that off, but we were also there to promote the value of the partnership between India and Australia,” he said.
Long term, while they don’t currently exist in the same way they do in Australia, the goal is to establish lifesaving and lifeguarding services across the many beaches of India.
“The plan now in the next six months is to get back over there and continue to build on the positive relationship and assist in establishing high-quality lifeguard and training services to help address the drowning epidemic in India,” Steve said.
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