National Water Safety Day 2020

National Water Safety Day 2020 Main Image

30 November 2020

I rise to speak on the motion moved by the member for Kingsford Smith and, in doing so, recognise his contribution as a surf lifesaver for 35 years and past president of Maroubra Surf Life Saving Club.


Tomorrow is the first day of summer. It will also mark the first National Water Safety Day. I congratulate the co-chairs of the Parliamentary Friends Of Surf Life Saving, Jason Falinski and Matt Thistlethwaite, on this important initiative.


Australians love the outdoors and the water: swimming, fishing, boating, surfing, snorkelling or sailing. It's part of our way of life, especially for coastal communities like mine on the Central Coast of New South Wales.


National Water Safety Day is an important opportunity to focus on staying safe and acting responsibly around the water as we head into the summer months and the school holidays.


Each year, too many Australians lose their lives to drowning. From 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020, 248 Australians lost their lives in the water. Royal Life Saving estimates another 504 people experienced a non-fatal drowning incident.


We are getting better. The statistics show a reduction in the number of incidents. The annual Royal Life Saving national drowning report shows the number of drowning deaths over the past year decreased by eight per cent on the year before and that deaths in rivers and creeks, the leading location for drownings, decreased by 32 per cent, compared with the 10-year average.


We must always be vigilant. Even experienced swimmers can be at risk in the water. Only last month, there was a serious incident at Wyong Olympic Pool in my electorate, where three Central Coast council lifeguards on duty at the time, Douglas Kingston, Adam Chay and David Lamond, helped save the life of a young water polo player in distress. I would like to thank Adam, Doug and David for their quick action to help save the life of this young man and recognise the important work professional lifeguards do every day keeping us safe.


Alongside the professional lifeguards, there are volunteers—surf lifesavers giving their time to keep us safe on the beaches every summer. Yesterday, I joined Toowoon Bay Surf Life Saving Club president, Phil Raymont, to present the national medal to four outstanding volunteer surf lifesavers from Toowoon Bay, joining the ranks of 13 others at their club, recognised with this prestigious award. The national medal, established in 1975, is one of the original elements of the Australian distinctive system of honours and rewards. You require 15 years of service to qualify for this medal.


Congratulations to Tracie Cole, who joined Toowoon Bay in 2001 as a nipper parent, attaining her bronze in 2004. Since then Tracie has patrolled consistently and is now a patrol captain. Craig Cole joined Toowoon Bay in 2004 as a nipper parent, attaining his bronze in 2005, and has consistently patrolled Toowoon Bay since. Patrol captain John Vergara joined Toowoon Bay in 2001, attaining his bronze medallion in 2004. He has consistently patrolled Toowoon Bay since attaining his bronze and is now part of the emergency call out team. He is also a trainer, assessor and facilitator. Finally, congratulations to Wendy McNamara. Wendy joined Toowoon Bay in 2006, having previously been a member at Lakes Beach. Wendy attained her bronze medallion in 2000 and has consistently patrolled Toowoon Bay since gaining her bronze.


This is a big contribution, as the member for Kingsford Smith would understand––patrolling for over 30 hours a year every season for 15 years. It is a big responsibility. Surf Life Saving Central Coast's annual report showed that on the Central Coast 806 people were treated with first aid and another 564 people were rescued last season by our volunteer surf lifesavers.


We need more volunteers to help out. If you are ready for the next step to jump in and become a surf lifesaver, signing up for your bronze medallion is a start, like I did in September, signing up to do my bronze medallion with Toowoon Bay Surf Lifesaving Club. Starting this October, each week I have learnt new skills and gained a better understanding of the surf, the conditions of safety and risk and how to help out. On Sunday I will be taking my final assessment. I would like to give a shout-out to my instructors, chief training officer, Sue Hale and life members Mick Cook and Graham Sherer, who have shown this rookie the ropes, and to patrol captain and life member Bil Kensey, who will assess our group of bronzies this Sunday. I would encourage anyone who is interested in signing up for their bronze to have a go. You will learn valuable life skills like rescue techniques and resuscitation. The course is offered through surf lifesaving clubs locally across Australia. At Toowoon Bay, Lakes, Soldiers Beach, North Entrance, The Entrance, Shelly Beach or Wamberal.


Ahead of National Water Safety Day tomorrow I would like to thank all our professional life guards working on the Central Coast and in the pools this summer, and the volunteer lifesavers, who keep everyone on the coast safe for visitors and locals across the summer on the sand and in the water.