Spirit Carnival 2020

12 November 2020

Two Aboriginal children in the pool with a rescue tubeMore than 180 children from 12 different Pilbara schools gathered together today at the 6th Annual Pilbara Spirit Swimming and Lifesaving Carnival, showing the skills they've learnt throughout the year while taking part in the Royal Life Saving Swim and Survive and Swim for Fruit programs! The carnival, held at the South Hedland Aquatic Centre is part of a two day Pilbara Aquatic Festival, thanks to funding provided by Principal Community Partner BHP and the Town of Port Hedland, which also sees children and adults take part in a variety of activities including pool lifesaving development sessions.Aboriginal children doing the rope throw from the edge of the pool

Royal Life Saving WA data shows that Aboriginal children are 14 times more likely to be involved in a fatal drowning incident than non-Aboriginal children in our state. Overall, half of children who fatally drown were Aboriginal. These incidents were most likely to occur at inland waterways such as rivers, while participating in a range of aquatic activities including swimming, fishing and paddling. Royal Life Saving WA is working hard to address these statistics, by focusing attention on swimming and lifesaving programs for children in regional and remote areas, with a special focus on remote aboriginal communities.

children at spirit carnival

The Pilbara Spirit Swimming and Lifesaving Carnival has significantly grown year on year, and through the carnival Royal Life Saving WA is making significant inroads into drowning prevention amongst Aboriginal children in regional WA. Royal Life Saving WA Senior Manager Swimming and Water Safety Education, Trent Hotchkin, says these swimming and water safety programs are essential. “Learning to Swim and Survive is a vital life skill that all Western Australian children need to safely participate in, on and around water. Building swimming and water safety skills in young children is vital work and the single most important investment we can make as a community to prevent drowning.”

The schools involved in this year’s carnival include Baler Primary, Cassia Primary, Jigalong Remote School, Marble Bar Remote School, Nullagine Remote School, Port Hedland Primary, Roebourne Primary, South Hedland Primary, St Cecelia's Catholic, Strelley Community School (Warralong), Strelley Community School (Strelley Campus)and Yandeyarra Remote School, with the children collectively travelling more than 1800 kilometres to attend the event! It was great to also receive a visit from Town of Port Hedland Mayor Peter Carter, and ABC Pilbara Presenter Verity Hughes, who broadcast her morning show from the carnival!

An Aboriginal boy in the swimming pool

The day enables the children to come together in a fun environment to participate in an interactive carnival encouraging physical activity and learning valuable lifesaving skills. Royal Life Saving WA Pilbara Development Officer Lauren Thompson says the event is more than just your average school swimming carnival. “The children have the opportunity to take part in the usual swimming races, but also traditional boat races and lifesaving activities, along with being able to try water polo and synchronised swimming. To round out the experience the participants were treated to a special lunch.

Mayor of Port Hedland Peter Carter with two girls in water polo gear

The wide range of activities involved has made the carnival extremely popular with schools across the region! Royal Life Saving WA’s Senior Manager Swimming and Water Safety Education, Trent Hotchkin says the hope is that the children involved in this carnival 

will make a real difference in the future of their communities.“By enabling these children to take part in our Swim and Survive swimming and water safety program and enjoy events like the Spirit Carnival we hope to see them lead a generational change, learning skills to become the future lifesavers in remote and regional WA. We want to give these children the opportunity to not only learn skills to keep themselves safe while in, on and around water, but also to equip them to encourage all community members to develop lifesaving swimming skills.”

You can read more about our work with Aboriginal children across the state at the link below.

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