by Alexia Austin
SWIMMING: After the accidental drowning of a toddler at Longreach this week, water safety for children was on top of the agenda at the Roma pool, with staff running Five Free for Under Five classes.
The five under five, a brainchild of athlete turned swim coach Laurie Laurence, is a project which encourages basic water skills in children younger than five to prepare them for water entry.
Statistics show drowning is one of the greatest causes of accidental death in Australian children younger than five, with an average of one child drowning each week.
Roma pool operator Stacey Robertson believes the best solution is awareness and preparation.
"The project is a great idea because it gives those who couldn't usually afford lessons a chance to come play and teach their children water confidence,” she said
"I think prevention is key: I teach students from as young as four months up water survival skills such as how to float and get to the edge of the pool, which is of utmost importance.”
The half-hour lessons teach turning techniques, reaching up to the pool edge, back floating and how to kick and paddle.
The program also incorporates adult education, with parents encouraged to join their children in the water.
Robertson knows the importance of such preventative measures, after having to perform a water rescue of a child while working at Cloncurry.
"I have had to run and swim 12.5 meters underwater to pull a baby from the bottom of a pool,” she said.
"Luckily no harm was done and the child was fine.
"If a child falls in the water and they have no skills, it can impact their chance of survival.
"When we heard about the incident in Longreach, we were very sad. It's always hard to hear and the best we can do now is be prepared.”
The Five for Five program runs until tomorrow, after which residents can access lessons for their children at the Roma pool, with classes starting from $15 for 30-minute sessions.