A new river safety education program is on its way to Wagga after a devastating summer that saw two local lives lost to the Murrumbidgee.
The Oasis swimming pool has teamed up with the Royal Lifesaving Society NSW to bring their open water survival program to the city.
The program is all about teaching children about the unseen obstacles lurking within inland waterways and how to manage any dangers that are likely to arise.
The Royal Lifesaving Society’s river safety project officer Ash Cater, who developed the program, said open waters like the Murrumbidgee are always the leading area for drownings.
“We want to make sure our children grow up knowing the dangers and hazards around our open water areas to make sure they stay safe and read the environment as best as possible,” Ms Cater said.
“The beach might look a lot scarier, so I think everyone looks at the river and just sees it as quite serene and assumes its safe, but there are so many more hidden dangers in there.”
The Oasis is just one of ten swimming pools around the state that will be participating in the open water survival program.
Ms Cater said the program will teach children how to be resourceful in the river and assess the water’s conditions.
“We’ve given the Oasis an $1000 kit, which includes a boat, child-sized life jackets, ropes, balls – all the things they’d find around the river environment that they can utilise to save themselves or someone else if they come into trouble,” she said.
“Our message is respect the river, so even if you swim there regularly, this is about making sure you’re always checking it and not becoming too relaxed around an environment that changes so frequently.”
Mayor Greg Conkey said he believed programs like these were absolutely vital after the growing number of drownings in the Murrumbidgee River over the last few summers.
“I think that's the way to start these days – you've got to start people when they are young and teach them to be mindful of the threats the river presents from an early age,” Cr Conkey said.
“The river is a fantastic asset, so we don’t want people to be frightened of it, but just to be aware of its challenges and how to navigate it safely.”