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Question without Notice: Water Safety

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Sam Hibbins MP
Member for Prahran
15 September 2021

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) : My question is for the Minister for Community Sport. Victorian
children have now missed out on the best part of two years’ swimming lessons. Last summer
drownings and water rescues increased dramatically, and when we eventually come out of lockdown
we are facing another dangerous summer at our beaches and waterways. Minister, will the government
fund a program of catch-up lessons for kids to ensure that children who missed out on swimming
lessons are equipped with the essential life skill of swimming?


Ms SPENCE (Yuroke—Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Minister for Community Sport,
Minister for Youth) : I thank the member for Prahran for his question, and I share his concern
about the number of drownings over the previous summer and the amount of time that a number of
Victorians have gone without swimming lessons. I say that acknowledging that we have had regional
Victoria recently open up out of restrictions, and with that came the opening of outdoor swimming
pools, so swimming lessons will be able to resume in those venues. Whilst the past 18 months have
been very challenging for everybody, swimming lessons have been able to resume in many places
throughout that time.


What we have been doing and what we will continue to do is support participation in swimming
lessons and encourage participation in swimming lessons, and we are doing that in a number of ways:
firstly, by recognising that financial circumstances should not prevent participation in swimming
lessons. We do that through the Get Active Kids voucher program, providing $21 million for around
100 000 vouchers of up to $200 each so that where cost may be a barrier to participation we can assist
in that regard. I will note that swimming was the highest sport where vouchers were claimed, so there
was obviously a great interest in participation in swimming lessons through that program, and I have
got no doubt that that will continue for round 3. Over 2200 payments have already been issued for
round 2 of that program, and we will continue to encourage participation in swimming lessons by
removing that financial barrier with that program.


Another way that we are encouraging participation in swimming lessons going forward is that we
announced in July funding of $800 000 to Aquatics and Recreation Victoria for the Vicswim summer
kids program over two years. This is a fantastic program which provides low-cost swimming
lessons—basically $30 for five lessons—which is generally the cost of one swimming lesson if you
go through other programs. It has had a real uptick in popularity over the past few years, going from
13 864 participants in 2018–19 to over 16 000 participants in 2020–21, and it operates at over
167 locations across Victoria. We will continue to promote that program to get participation in it
because of its importance, noting that 48 per cent of parents that participated in a survey said that their
children would not have had swimming lessons but for that program.


Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) : Thank you, Minister, for your answer. I do note that the Vicswim
program that the minister referred to is largely offered in regional Victoria, with limited places in
Melbourne, which of course has had the longest lockdown and has the greatest need for the uptake of
swimming lessons. But I ask: given that during the lockdown many swim instructors have actually left
the profession due to lockdown and this could cause significant barriers to the uptake of swim lessons
in Melbourne once the lockdown eases, what action is the government taking to ensure there is actually
an adequate workforce to cater for the children needing to resume swim lessons?


Ms SPENCE (Yuroke—Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Minister for Community Sport,
Minister for Youth) : I thank the member for Prahran for his question. I engage with the sector
regularly, and there has been an issue with people leaving the sector. I am very happy to continue
working with the sector to make sure that there is an adequate workforce. It has not been raised with
me that there are concerns that they will not be able to continue to provide lessons. We certainly believe
that we will be able to provide lessons, and I will continue to work with the sector and assist them with
the concerns that they raise with me.

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Sam Hibbins MP
Member for Prahran
15 September 2021
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