Surf safety is set to take off in North Queensland this week, thanks to a new community awareness initiative being rolled out by Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) at the Cairns International Airport.
More than 15,000 travellers from across Asia alone are expected to touch down in Cairns this week to celebrate the Chinese New Year and, for the first time, each person will be greeted by a lifesaver in full patrol uniform and presented with vital information about surf safety in their primary language.
Historically, international travellers, tourists, and migrants have been overrepresented in the state’s drowning figures and SLSQ community awareness manager Helen Hallett is hoping the educational initiative can help reverse this trend.
“Thousands of international travellers will be arriving in North Queensland this week, and it’s fair to assume that a lot of these people may not have even been to Australia before, let alone swum at one of our beaches,” Mrs Hallett said.
“In the past ten years alone there have been seven drownings on North Queensland’s Green Island, and a large percentage of these have been international tourists with little experience in the Australian surf.
“This is a great opportunity for us to engage with these tourists and provide them with some basic information about how they can protect themselves and their families if and when they visit a beach.”
For the next week, each passenger arriving from Asia over the Chinese New Year period will receive a fold-out information flyer with key safety messages and information on beach flags and warning signs in Mandarin.
“Our overarching vision as an organisation is to achieve ‘zero preventable deaths in Queensland public waters’ and we see community awareness and public education programs such as this playing a key role in saving lives,” Mrs Hallett said.
“Growing up in Australia, it can often be easy to take surf safety for granted, but many international visitors don’t have the same level of awareness and may not even realise they should be swimming between the flags.
“If we can actively engage with international tourists and promote safe swimming practices, then it makes the job of our patrolling surf lifesavers and lifeguards that much easier.”
Anyone heading to the beach to celebrate the Chinese New Year is strongly encouraged to only swim at patrolled locations and between the red and yellow flags.