Wagga City councillor Vanessa Keenan is gunning to implement a ‘Bush Nippers’ program that ensures inland children have the same opportunities as their coastal counterparts.
It follows calls from residents and neighbouring council bodies to support a river safety awareness program in the Wagga region.
‘Bush Nippers’ – the NSW SES-supported program operating in Orange and Jindabyne – has been touted as an ideal fix and Cr Keenan is heading the charge.
“For kids to learn about river safety, it needs to be in a river environment,” she said.
River safety education should be taught at the same rate as beach safety ... it’s not something we can be complacent about.- Cr Vanessa Keenan
Cr Keenan put a notice of motion to council early last year following the tragic drowning of Peter ‘Pace’ El-Ab-Kaddous and believes the aquatic safety review produced in November is proving fruitful.
“We’re looking to work with community groups as much as possible to promote river safety and the Bush Nippers idea seems to be really gaining momentum at the moment,” she said.
“I’ve spoken with (NSW SES controller) Daniel Mahoney and the SES is keen to play a role.”
Though youth education is a crucial aspect, SES volunteer Rhys Dever has observed plenty of adult beach-goers setting poor examples on the Murrumbidgee.
Even children can learn the skills needed to save the life of someone around them.- CEO of Surf Life Saving NSW Steven Pearce
“There’s people out and about with no jackets and that’s just not on,” he said.
“Only last week, some bloke came punching it up the river in the four knot area right past me.
“He had no life jacket, his kid didn’t have a life jacket, and he was holding a can.”
CEO of Surf Life Saving NSW Steven Pearce said the importance of CPR and first aid training was another vital consideration.
“Even children can learn the skills needed to save the life of someone around them,” he said.