A study revealing a concerning lack of ocean proficiency in Australia’s Asian population has prompted the Parliamentary Friends of Surf Life Saving to raise awareness of the issue among the Chinese community.
Data collected by Surf Life Saving Australia as part of the 2016 National Coastal Safety Survey has shown the Asian community has low levels of surf proficiency, safety awareness and confidence in and around the water.
Of the people of Asian descent who were surveyed, 43% rated their ability to swim in the ocean as weak, 29% said they were unable to swim in the ocean at all, and 45% said they were unable to swim for 50m in the ocean without stopping or touching the bottom.
Measuring levels of confidence in identifying rip currents, just 3% of those surveyed of Asian background said they were very confident they could identify a rip, 15% were somewhat confident, while 76% said they were either not very confident or not at all confident.
The Chinese Australian community is one of the largest ethnic communities in Australia and over the years they have suffered greatly from the oceans power and unpredictability.
Just as the ocean has the power to bring much joy to our lives, it can also put our lives, and the lives of our loved ones, in danger.
That is why as we enter the beach season, it is so important that we continue to educate and remind people about the inherent dangers that await them on the nation’s coast, and the precautions they can take to increase their safety.
It is, of course, vitally important that everyone swims on patrolled beaches only and stays between the red and yellow flags. It means that if you get into trouble it is far more likely there will be trained lifesavers to help you.
Beachgoers should always watch and listen to surf lifesavers. They are the experts with full and intimate knowledge of the coastal environment and the hazards that exist. Remember, if you’re unsure or worried about anything, you can always ask a lifesaver for advice. They are there to help.
Asian Australians are also overrepresented among those injured or killed while rock fishing. More than 150 people have drowned while rock fishing in Australia during the past 12 years (2004–16). One-quarter of those who died came from Chinese communities.
Of the Asian people surveyed, just 6% said they always wore a lifejacket or buoyancy aid when rock fishing, 22% said most of the time, and 48% said sometimes.
Anglers should avoid fishing alone, stay home if the weather or surf is rough, wear correct clothing and non-slip footwear, and always wear a lifejacket,” Mr Thistlethwaite said.
Education is the key. It is vitally important we continue to educate and remind people who intend to visit our great Australian coastline about the inherent dangers that await them, and the simple precautions they can take to improve their safety.
That way everyone can leave the coast with their families by their side and nothing but happy memories.
Note: Parliamentary Friends of Surf Life Saving is a Federal Parliamentary group established to promote surf and coastal safety awareness in the Australian Parliament and across the country. Co-Chairs of the group are Kingsford Smith MP Matt Thistlethwaite and Corangamite MP Sarah Henderson.