Are swimming lessons compulsory in Australia?


Swimming skills are extremely important for children and adults in water-loving Australia. Not only do these skills save lives, they also ensure social participation and inclusion year-round.

Based on results from a study conducted by Royal Life Saving Australia, approximately 1 in 5 children are unable to swim the length of an Olympic swimming pool by the time they finish primary school. This shows that swimming skills among children are unacceptably low for a nation surrounded by water.

Most states have a compulsory school swimming program. In fact, Queensland is the only state in the country that does not run a compulsory or comprehensive State Government-funded swimming program in primary schools. In Victoria, the Swimming in Schools program is designed to ensure children develop the required water safety skills before leaving primary school. The program is intended to ensure all students, regardless of background or socio-economic status gain the requisite skills needed under the Victorian Water Safety Certificate. Children complete the certificate when they can swim 50m continuously, answer water safety questions and perform simple rescues.

Swimming in Schools is funded by the Victorian government, which helps to support schools in implementing the program.

However, there is a strong argument that the school swimming programs are not enough to ensure Victorian kids have water safety skills. The end requirements of the program are not particularly challenging, and the lack of regularity in the program means that kids may lose their skills rapidly, if not maintained with outside swimming practice.

Like other states, private swimming lessons are not compulsory in Victoria, and often are only undertaken when parents have the time, money, and local facilities available to them. Many children in rural or remote areas, from diverse backgrounds or low socio-economic circumstances miss out on private swimming lessons, which makes developing the necessary water safety skills challenging. Although school swimming is a commendable program, it is no replacement for regular weekly swimming lessons.

Unfortunately, Queensland state primary schools are required to offer a water safety and swimming program, but participation is not compulsory. Parents can choose whether their child should participate. For the sunniest Australian state this seems particularly dangerous, given the overall easy access to water in Queensland. Many groups are lobbying for change in this area, citing a high number of unacceptable drownings that have occurred due to weak swimming skills.

While private swimming lessons are in no way compulsory, they are widely regarded as the best way to ensure your child has the survival skills needed in the water. We recommend starting your child in lessons as early as possible, and ensuring regular and consistent lessons until they are competent in the water.

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