Students swap classroom for sands of Bondi to learn life-saving lessons of water safety

It’s a long way from Bankstown to Bondi, but as Australia is projected to experience one of its worst summers for drownings in recent years Western Sydney University is tackling the water safety challenge head-on – helping international students learn life-saving beach safety skills so they can not only survive, but thrive, in the Aussie surf.

More than 50 Western Sydney University international students are making their way to world-famous Bondi Beach today to build their confidence in the water and learn vital beach safety skills from chief lifeguard Bruce ‘Hoppo’ Hopkins, face of the ‘Float To Survive Australia’ campaign and reality TV program Bondi Rescue.

For many, setting foot on the golden sands of iconic Bondi will be their first time experiencing an Australian beach – or any ocean. In a two-hour long session, students will learn the all-important float to survive technique, as well as other essential beach safety tips such as how to identify a rip, how to signal for help and what the warning signs and symbols mean.

Western Sydney University has been running its highly successful Beach Safety initiative for six years as part of its Inclusive Communities and Peer programs, with more than 170 students completing to date.

This year the University has scaled up its program with several Beach Safety Days to take place throughout the year. These days will provide hundreds of students the opportunity to participate in a bid to increase awareness – particularly among new international students – of the importance of water safety.

Western Sydney University’s Vice-President (People and Advancement), Mr Angelo Kourtis, said as beautiful as Australia’s beaches can be, they can also be treacherous – even for the most experienced beach goers.

“Taking a dip in the surf is part of enjoying the Australian summer, but there are risks. International students might not have experience navigating strong currents or identifying rips,” said Mr Kourtis.

"We need to do more as a community in ensuring international students enjoy all Australia has to offer – safely.”

As one of the most socially and culturally diverse universities in Australia, Western Sydney University takes its responsibility for student safety and success seriously.

“Our long-running Beach Safety support program creates important social connections – helping students get to know their peers, have fun and build lasting friendships,” said Mr Kourtis.

“Beach Safety Day is about our international students safely and confidently enjoying Australia’s beautiful beaches and waterways. It’s an opportunity to connect with the culture, with community, and with the support students will need for a successful and rewarding study experience.”

ENDS

1 March 2024

Media Unit

Photo credit: Sally Tsoutas