Working collaboratively to keep students safe: A beach and water safety program in NSW

Ms Belinda Meggitt1, Dr Zoe Richards1, Mr Simon Mullard2, Mr Doug Hawkins3

1University Of New South Wales, Kensington, Australia, 2YMCA NSW, Sydney, Australia, 3Coogee Surf Life Saving Club, Coogee, Australia

Water and beach culture are part of the quintessential Australian experience, yet many international students do not know how to swim and most lack a basic understanding of beach safety. During the financial year of 2017-2018, 249 people drowned and 551 people were hospitalized due to non-fatal drownings in Australian waters, with six international students drowning between 2016-2017. In response, UNSW Health and Well-being, in partnership with the YMCA and Coogee Surf Life Saving Club, developed a beach and water safety program with the aim of building students’ beach and water confidence.

Students are provided with eight swimming lessons, one beach-safety session, and they learn life-long health and wellbeing skills. The program commenced in March 2018 and has since engaged over 420 international students. Students complete a pre- and post-program online survey to monitor their progress. Over the course of the eight-week program in 2018, 71% of students felt confident or very confident swimming in a pool, compared to only 21% prior to the program. By the end of the program, 51% of students were able to swim one lap of a 25m pool, compared to 16% at commencement. Students also reported that the program helped develop their social networks and friendships. This presentation will explore the key strategies used for engagement and share the outcomes of the 2019 program. It will also demonstrate how a collaborative cross-sector effort can develop a feasible and cost-effective program that builds water safety skills that has the potential to save lives.


Belinda is the health promotions team lead at UNSW. She came to the higher education sector only two years ago with over five years international health development experience and 10 years project coordination experience. Belinda is passionate about social justice and making a positive change in the lives of others. She is a Physiotherapist and Nutritionist and holds a Masters in Public Health.

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