An LSV public safety campaign focused on helping public pool operators to better communicate with vulnerable swimmers about water safety, including those from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, has been recognised for its innovation and evidence-based research.
The SwimSafe program, which is currently in place in 90 public pool facilities across the state, received a nomination for the Parks and Leisure Australia Research Award 2020 in July.
SwimSafe supports vulnerable adult swimmers at higher risk of drowning and injury, with two groups targeted by the program including people from CALD communities and people with disabilities or pre-existing medical conditions.
The need for the public safety campaign came about through coronial recommendations, as well as research showing that in the 10 years to 2014-15, 28 per cent of people who died from drowning in public and commercial swimming pools across Australia were born overseas.
LSV’s Risk and Research Services – Project Officer Grace Strugnell said SwimSafe was developed in partnership with the Victorian aquatic industry.
“We know drowning risk is unfortunately high among people from CALD communities,” Ms Strugnell said.
“This is primarily due to a limited awareness of hazards and risks as well as lower swimming competency, due to limited opportunities to develop skills and knowledge through aquatic participation. ”
“We also know public pools can provide an ideal setting to allow people to engage with and enjoy aquatic recreation in a controlled environment under lifeguard supervision, so there’s an opportunity there to provide groups at increased risk with targeted water safety messaging.”
SwimSafe helps foster an environment where individuals at higher risk can feel comfortable with informing pool staff of their potential vulnerabilities. Staff can then provide simple information to assist in elevating the awareness of particular hazards and risks.
“It’s all about reducing the likelihood of an injury or drowning and improving safety for vulnerable swimmers,” Ms Strugnell said.
Following initial trials with the program in partnership with Belgravia Leisure and Banyule City Council, further research was conducted into the typical experience of individuals from the two target groups at public pools.
New campaign materials were developed and refined following further consultation with individuals from the target groups, including the development of ‘5 tips’ to help people be SwimSafe. A pilot study of the new materials was then conducted at a number of aquatic centres in Victoria.
“A key component of developing the messaging and materials for the SwimSafe project was to gain input from these target groups to make sure messages are delivered in the most suitable way to affect positive behaviour change,” Ms Strugnell said.
“The program has been designed to incorporate training for leadership teams and service staff, as well as safety signage and accompanying materials.”
The current campaign is already being implemented in aquatic facilities with up to 200 facilities anticipated to take up this public safety campaign.