Swim and Survive helping children to thrive in the water for 40 years

This month, Life Saving Victoria and the Royal Lifesaving Society Australia celebrated 40 years of Swim and Survive, with LSV general manager education, sport and club development Kate Simpson, who is one of the program’s early participants joining the festivities. 

For the past four decades, Swim and Survive has made an enormous impact on the development of Victorian children’s swimming and water safety skills and knowledge. 

The program, which was developed by a group of swimming and water safety education subject matter experts, is aimed at children aged five to 14, to give them the knowledge required for a lifetime of safe recreation in and around the water. 

Ms Simpson, who now oversees LSV’s education portfolio, said the program gave her confidence in the water which led to her completing her surf life saving and royal life saving bronze qualifications, becoming a competitive swimmer and eventually at age 18, a swim teacher while studying education at university. 

“My parents signed me up for Swim and Survive at Ascot Vale Leisure Centre when I was just one or two years old, where I continued through the program all the way to completing the bronze star,” she said. 

“I particularly enjoyed doing the swimming in clothes survival activities, which are still a part of the program today, as the scenarios were very realistic and my instructor, Janelle, would constantly change the scenarios so we would never quite know what was coming next, which is what makes a great teacher.” 

Ultimately, it was as a toddler at Swim and Survive where her passion was sparked to work in the aquatic industry and ensure every Victorian child has the opportunity to learn to swim. 

“Being hired at LSV and eventually taking over the education manager role was one of my proudest moments, the years of work and collaboration to continue Swim and Survive’s legacy to get to this point is so impactful across not only Victoria, but the whole of Australia,” Ms Simpson said. 

“The act of learning to swim hasn’t necessarily changed in 40 years, but the way people learn and the way we teach applying evidence-based information so we can empower children through scenarios, like I did with Janelle 39 years ago, to make safe decisions around water. 

“It is incredible to think of the number of people positively impacted by Swim and Survive with 40 years of incredible history, anyone who has had the opportunity to participate is part of something so much bigger than just learning to swim.” 

LSV manager learn to swim Jacqui Taylor said while the atmosphere was celebratory, the underlying message of child drowning prevention must be taken seriously. 

“Tragically, last financial year, 15 children aged zero to 14 drowned, and in 2021-22 we have already seen five children lose their lives to drowning since 1 July 2021,” Ms Taylor said. 

“Part of reversing this unacceptable trend is getting children back into the pool at swimming lessons, which provide valuable foundation skills that not only minimise the risk of drowning, but give children pathways into other aquatic recreation activities. 

“Aquatic recreation activities are not only a lot of fun and keep you healthy, but also help children to continue developing their water safety skills for life.” 

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