The Morrison Government is providing $9.7 million in additional funding to Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) as it continues to protect beachgoers and improve volunteer lifesaving skills.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the additional funding would help save lives and builds on a further $21 million over the next three years for the Water and Snow Safety Program.

“Our surf lifesavers play such a vital role at our beaches saving lives and dealing with emergencies in the water and on the beach day in, day out,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

“This additional funding will ensure our local clubs will have the ability to purchase vital equipment and medical supplies that they need to keep Australians safe on our beaches.”

From July 2019 to the end of June 2020, there were 248 drownings in Australia with more than half of the fatalities occurring in coastal areas.

The Morrison Government will invest $3.1 million through the Water and Snow Safety Program, to support SLSA’s Beach Safety Equipment Fund aimed at preventing fatal and non-fatal drownings.

It means surf lifesaving clubs will now be able to access up to $10,000 per annum over the next two years to purchase new or replacement patrol equipment such as rescue boards, life jackets, rescue manikins, inflatable rescue boats, all-terrain vehicles, defibrillators, and first aid and medical supplies.

The new funding also includes $6.6 million over two years to continue providing vocational education and training (VET) to volunteers and build on SLSA’s capability.

SLSA is the largest volunteer movement in Australia with more than 173,000 members and 314 affiliated surf clubs across the length and breadth of the nation.

Minister for Sport, Senator the Hon. Richard Colbeck said the training offered by Surf Life Saving to club volunteers and members provided them with transferrable skills beyond lifesaving.

“As well as being able to use new skills learnt during VET training for the purpose of life-saving, around 25 per cent of SLS members believe these new skills helped them gain employment,” he said.

“This funding will also help upgrade SLSA’s technology to enhance the training it offers, cut red tape and expand its recruitment and recognition of supervisors, trainers and assessors at clubs.”

Member for Mackellar, Jason Falinski, said the funding would be vital for Surf Life Saving clubs like Collaroy where volunteers, who have already performed 5000 patrol hours this season, rely on the best skills and equipment to keep beachgoers safe.

“The efforts of our Surf Life Savers should not be underestimated,” Mr Falinski said. “Every day during the summer season, thousands of dedicated volunteers are keeping swimmers safe.

“With this significant support, the Morrison Government is ensuring clubs and their members across the country can continue to do what they do best – saving lives.”

The additional funding for SLSA’s Beach Safety Equipment Fund brings the Government’s investment for this initiative to $9.1 million from 2018–19 to 2021–22.

The Morrison Government’s additional investment in VET training for SLSA brings its total commitment to this program to $16.6 million between 2016–17 and 2021–22.