International students have been learning how to stay safe in the surf as part of a beach safety program run jointly by UniSA and Grange Surf Life Saving Club.
Students from 21 countries, spanning five continents, took part in the recent beach safety session as part of an initiative to ensure students are better educated about water safety on Australian beaches this summer. They also got the chance to have fun in the sun with new classmates from around the world.
Event manager and UniSA Work Health & Safety consultant, Jim Townsend, said the beach session provided important safety education for many students who have never been regular beach-goers.
“The accessibility of Adelaide’s beaches make them a desirable and popular leisure spot for international students, and while our coastline is generally benign, it can occasionally be dangerous,” Townsend says.
“That’s why surf education is so important, especially for those who are unfamiliar with that environment.
For new international student Abe Tobin Mathew from Bahrain (pictured back row, second from right), it was the first time he’d visited an Australian beach. He says the event offered the opportunity for him to learn beach safety while making new friends from around the world.
“The beach was beautiful and the activities were really fun and informative,” he says.
“We learnt how to keep ourselves safe while surfing or swimming. We also found out about the various animals, birds and fish that inhabit the beach.”
Shannon Dennison (pictured, front right), a new international student from Canada, says the beach session was great fun.
“I loved playing a game first then learning how to save each other in the water,” she says. “The day provided an opportunity for us to meet new people and it was nice to gather for a barbecue before the end as well.”
The 2015-2016 Australian Royal Life Saving Report found drowning rates have increased by more than five per cent in the past year, with an average of one person every week drowning at an Australian beach and 10 people a day needing to be rescued.
Grange Surf Life Saving club captain Vanessa Hodson says water safety is paramount, not just over the summer months.
“Summer is definitely when we are most active, but it’s really important for everyone to be water-safe whenever they are at the beach,” Hodson says.
“This surf and beach safety education session exposed international students to a range of scenarios that they may encounter in the water, from basic water safety to a full surf rescue.
“Everyone learnt how to stay safe, how to signal for help, and what to do in an emergency.
“We ask all people, not just international students, to exercise extreme caution when they are in the water, no matter what they are doing, and to swim between the flags.”