The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter (WLRH) paid a special visit to Minaret College, an Islamic school in Springvale, on Thursday 27th July. For the first time on a school landing, the WLRH enlisted the Life Saving Victoria (LSV) multicultural department to present alongside the crew.
“To be able to visit students whose backgrounds may not have water safety education as a priority is a real opportunity to widen the reach of our safety messages,” says LSV operations manager Greg Scott.
Around 700 students from both the primary and senior grades watched the WLRH land on the school oval and heard about the importance of water safety from the helicopter crew members, who are also dedicated lifesaving volunteers.
LSV’s multicultural department staff also presented to the students and tailored the safety messaging towards the CALD students, who make up the majority of students at the college.
“I learnt a lot today about how to be safe in the water,” says Syeda (12), who was born in India and doesn’t know how to swim. “It was a really nice experience and I’m really happy I got to see the helicopter so close and see it land.”
Maryan (8), who was born in Sri Lanka and has had swimming lessons at school, says she loves the beach and learnt today that you should always swim between the flags.
Dawood (12), who is the college’s current ‘Prime Minister’, thought the presentation was “magnificent” and remembers the crew saying that you should “never go close to the rip currents”.
Minaret College students also learnt about the scheduled aerial patrols of the coastline, which operate on weekends and public holidays from mid-November until Easter Monday, with increased patrols operating throughout the busiest summer period from 24th December to the 26th January, as well as for emergency assistance year-round.
Funded by the generous support of Westpac, the WLRH service in Victoria is equipped to assist in incidents such as shark patrols, beacon location (EPIRB homing), static line rescues, SAR of lost swimmers, missing boats and fishermen in distress, as well as providing support in inland emergencies.
Omer (7), who was born in Pakistan, was one of the only students in the crowd who had been up in a helicopter and says he was the only one in his family not to be scared of heights.
“I know when helicopters go up, they sometimes go fast, but they’re very expensive,” says Omer (7), who was very happy to be told that no one has ever had to pay to be rescued by the WLRH service. “I don’t go to the beach much, but I remember from today that you should always swim with someone else, in case you get in trouble in the water.”
It took just 90 seconds for the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter to get from its Moorabbin base to the school grounds, carrying with it two crew members, as well as the pilot.
Students were assigned roles as the WRLH service’s youngest crew members and were put into a harness for a mock rescue, to the delight of the children watching.
“We hope the students will take these drowning prevention messages home to their families and help to effect change in these communities,” says Mr Scott. “Some of their family and friends may be vulnerable swimmers who are less aware of the changeable ocean conditions and beach safety.”