The week, dubbed The Big Beach Week, a whole week of activities, lessons and livestreams, included the flagship educational program, Beach to Bush, which, despite the challenges of COVID-19 restrictions, proved a great success once again, bringing beach safety awareness to rural and remote school students in NSW.
Over 7,000 students from 73 schools took advantage of the program in 2021, which focuses on the role of surf lifesavers, why you should always swim between the flags, how to spot a rip current, what to do if you get into trouble at the beach, the different types of marine life that can be found along the coast and inland waterways.
The 28th year of the program saw NSW’s dedicated volunteer lifesavers reach as far inland as Finley Public School, which is around 700km from the nearest beach.
There was also no school too big or too small – the 415 students of Goulburn West School finished the week with just as much excitement to visit the beach and understanding of safe practice as the six students from Sofala Public School, north of Bathurst.
“As a rural small school, this program is so important for students to be aware of water safety, not only going into the school holidays but for all times being aware around water so that they know what to do to keep themselves save,” a St Joseph’s Primary Merriwa teacher said.
Due to ongoing restrictions and COVID-19 uncertainty, Beach to Bush was this year reimagined to be delivered virtually, basing the program out of six coastal hubs up and down the NSW coastline.
Broulee Surfers SLSC, Swansea Belmont SLSC, Shelly Beach SLSC, Cudgen Headland SLSC, Dee Why SLSC and the SLSNSW HQ in Belrose allowed presenters to give more than 100 presentations over the course of the week.
Beach to Bush spokesperson Jenni Clarke said that, after another successful year, plans were already in place to expand the reach to more schools and more students, providing crucial aquatic safety education to those who need it most.
“It’s our vision that every student in NSW has access to beach and coastal safety information, regardless of the size of their school,” Jenni said.
“Children who grow up inland are often at higher risk than those who grow up on the coast because they are less familiar and unaware of potential surf dangers. That’s what Beach to Bush aims to support.
“This year we ran the week to coincide with National Water Safety Day, which is on 1 December, and we encouraged the students to wear red and yellow on that day.
“So many students got behind it and it was wonderful seeing so much colour on our virtual sessions.”
The NSW Government (through the Deputy Premier’s Discretionary Fund) and Your local club were once again the financial supporters of the Beach to Bush program.
ClubsNSW CEO Josh Landis said that the club industry places great value on aquatic safety.
“Your local club is a proud sponsor of Surf Life Saving NSW and the Beach to Bush program. It is incredibly important to educate those in remote and regional communities about water safety and we look forward to continuing our long and successful partnership,” he said.
Thursday 9 December 2021