Good luck Hayden, making a difference in Wilcannia.

One of the key objectives of the Australian Water Safety Strategy 2016-20, produced by the Australian Water Safety Council (AWSC), is to monitor and expand strategies to reduce drowning in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who continue to be over-represented in drowning statistics, accounting for 6% of all drowning deaths in the 11 financial years between 2004/05 and 2014/15. This is despite accounting for an estimated 3% of the Australian population, so it is obvious that focused drowning prevention strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are urgently required.

It is for this reason that one of our swim instructors, Hayden Bousfield is travelling to Wilcannia this month to teach swimming skills to the local indigenous community in a 2 week intensive program.

Wilcannia, near Broken Hill (if you call 195kms away near!), is home to 600 people, 520 of which are indigenous. The town is situated on the Darling river, in an environment which is borderline semi-arid to desert with an annual rainfall of just 255 millimetres, where temperatures as high as 50 degrees celsius have been recorded. The river is where locals get relief from the heart, but the majority of residents can’t swim. In a generational problem,parents can’t swim, so kids don’t learn, and this dangerous situation is perpetuated. There is a local pool, however, no one is offering swimming lessons. The name Wilcannia is said to be derived from an Aboriginal term for ‘gap in the bank where floodwaters escape’, which suggests a dangerous situation in itself.

The principal of St Theresa’s Community School in Wilcannia, is Paul McCabe, who is trying to make a change and address the community’s lack of swimming ability. A family friend of Hayden’s, Mr McCabe approached him about the possibility of a 2 week intensive swimming program in Wilcannia, and a plan was hatched.

Good luck Hayden, and we look forward to seeing the pictures and hearing the stories from your time in Wilcannia!