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PW 1927 Reviewing the national swimming and water safety education framework: a drowning prevention strategy
  1. Stacey Willcox-Pidgeon,
  2. Penny Larsen,
  3. Craig Roberts
  1. Royal Life Saving Society – Australia, Sydney, Australia


Background The Australian Water Safety Council developed the National Swimming and Water Safety Education Framework in 1999, with little review since then. The Framework provides a comprehensive outline of what skills children (aged 5–14 years) should be taught according to age and development. The Framework offers a staged approach of developing skills over time in preparation for a range of situations in all aquatic environments, with the goal to reduce drowning.

Objective To review and revise the National Swimming and Water Safety Education Framework in consultation with key stakeholders.

Methods A Delphi method was utilized, involving 20 experts across the aquatic industry in Australia, including education representatives, swim school industry, swimming and water safety agencies. Three rounds of online surveys were conducted, followed by a face-to-face workshop for final consensus and approval.

Findings The main revisions of the Framework include a greater emphasis on water safety knowledge and understanding that relate directly to skills being taught; and a stronger focus on achieving fundamental skills. During the consultation phase, it was recognised that many people miss out on learning swimming and water safety skills in childhood (e.g. new migrants), therefore having the flexibility to learn these essential skills at any age, development stage or (dis)ability level was identified as important and has been incorporated.

Discussion and conclusion Applying the Delphi method to revise the National Swimming and Water Safety Education Framework provided a tool for engaging a range of stakeholders. This review achieved greater consensus among industry towards improving national standards for swimming and water safety, which in turn has increased ownership, and encouraged further adoption of the Framework by the sector.

Policy implications The review process provides a model for other countries, organisations or sectors to follow when revising and/or developing injury prevention guidelines, particularly if key stakeholders are involved.

Acknowledgement This research is supported by Royal Life Saving Society – Australia. The drowning prevention research of Royal Life Saving Society – Australia is supported by the Australian Government.

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