Ripping yarns - students learn beach safety tips
Published on 24 August, 2011
Despite its popular image as a public playground, the beach can be hazardous to the uninitiated.
Indeed, few international students can identify hazards such as 'sandbars', strong undercurrents known as 'rips' and dumping waves or 'dumpers'.
The 2010 National Coastal Safety Report (Surf Life Saving 2010) states '38 per cent of drowning victims were of foreign ethnicity or international tourists - this high risk group lack the water safety knowledge, skills and awareness required to enjoy Australian beaches safely'.
Additional challenges include English skills, limited or over-estimation of swimming ability and unfamiliarity with the coastal environment.
Since 2006, the number of tourist migrant drownings has jumped from 9 to 26 per annum. The report does not identify how many of these were international students.
During a recent Orientation Day at CQUniversity Sydney Campus, international students were surveyed about their swimming ability. Some 95 per cent indicated that they could not swim while only 2 per cent had actually been in the ocean before.
A DVD produced by Dr Alison Owens and Susan Loomes, A Roadmap to Learning Success in Australia (2010), features a chapter entitled 'Staying Safe' where Bondi Rescue Lifeguards give tips to CQUniversity students about how to minimise personal risk and how to practice safe beach behaviour.
During the filming of the DVD the Lifeguards stated that they often perform repeated rescues of international students who continue to wade and swim outside the flags.
"They do not understand the danger of the surf", they said.
Since last year, members of NSW Surf Life Saving Association have attended the CQUniversity Sydney Student Orientation Program to ensure that students are fully aware of the dangers associated in and around the surf.
They learn that they must obey lifeguard rules and swim between the red and yellow flags, and how to identify a rip. They are also told that rock fishing is one of the most dangerous sports in Australia.
The Campus has also initiated an Adult Learn to Swim program for students. Under the care and instruction of trained pool attendants, students can now enrol in half-hour weekly swimming classes held at Cook & Phillip Park Aquatic and Fitness Centre in Sydney City.
Other CQUniversity campuses also have water safety initiatives in place.
Susan Loomes, Campus Director, CQuniversity Sydney says they want to make sure that all students are very aware of the dangers of the surf and know what to do if they get in trouble.