National Aquatic Industry Safety Awards
Excellence in Public Education
Monash Sport, Doug Ellis Swimming Pool
Monash Sport provides a wide range of aquatic and recreation facilities and programs for Monash University students and the local community. Over the last 15 years our adult learn to swim program has continued to develop and we could see a growing demand and a need in the area of water safety and swimming for young adults.
The community at Monash University incorporates University staff, students and alumni and also the wider community within Monash City Council. The student cohort includes domestic and international students and students who live in on-campus residences. Above all else, we strive to enhance the health and wellness of our community and to provide high quality facilities, programs and caring staff to optimise their time with us. Our annual student surveys and focus groups have indicated that our students consistently value their time at Monash Sport as a positive influence on their mental health, wellbeing, sense of belonging and academic performance while studying at Monash University.
Monash Sport plans to continue to refine and develop the Water Wise program for Monash University students and hopefully obtain further funding to offer more places in the coming years. We will continue to advocate for benefits of adult learn to swim and water safety with the Monash University student cohort, the wider community and within the aquatic industry. We believe the young adult age groups can be a key area of focus for many organisations and centres and we can collectively work to reduce the drowning statistics and increase the water safety skills and knowledge for this demographic.
What it means
Winning this award would be a great achievement for the whole team at Monash Sport, who have worked hard to advocate for learn to swim and water safety skills for young adults, obtained funding to provide this program for Monash University students at no cost to the participants and deliver exceptional quality lessons and experiences to our students. It will allow us to highlight the importance of water safety skills being life long knowledge, that can be developed and practiced at any life stage and also encourage other organisations and communities to explore the young adult demographic.
Describe how the nominee has provided a contribution to their community / industry in Public Education
Water Wise, developed and launched in 2015, is a Monash University subsidised program providing learn to swim lessons at the beginner level to current Monash University Students, at no cost to the participant. The Monash Sport Water Wise adult learn to swim program reduces financial, logistic and social barriers for many international and domestic students and allows them to learn skills that could save their life, and provides them with opportunities to be involved in positive social activities in an aquatic environment. The development and implementation of this program was a direct response to Monash students lacking water confidence and capability, and in the worst cases, drowning in open water in Australia. The Water Wise program has helped over 4,500 Monash University students enhance their water confidence and competence, since 2015. There are other mental health, physical and social benefits of the program, which directly enhance the student experience for participants. Due to the broad range of social events in Australia that are conducted in aquatic environments, an understanding of swimming and water safety cannot be underestimated.
Describe (and provide evidence) of improvements and/or achievements made in Public Education over the past 12-18 months
Monash Sport has been able to assist over 4,500 Monash University students to learn fundamental swimming, water safety and survival skills over 3 years (January 2015 – February 2018). The Water Wise program provides significant cultural, social and physical skills benefit to Monash University students, including but not limited to:
• Participation in group classes with other Monash University students and wider community members with varying backgrounds and interests.
• Increasing student cohesion and social engagement through participation in co-curricular activities.
• Learning skills that will assist students to increase their access and use of Monash University facilities.
• Learning skills that will improve personal safety in participating in social situations involving water outside of the university environment.
• Physical and mental health benefits of swimming and physical activity.
The Monash Sport Water Wise program has enabled an increasing number of Monash University students to access the facilities at the Doug Ellis Swimming Pool, one of only twenty five leisure facilities to be awarded the Lifesaving Victoria Platinum Pool award. This has transformed the social atmosphere at the aquatic complex, resulting in many small groups of domestic and international students gathering regularly to practice their newly learned swimming skills. This has become an increasingly popular social hub for students.
Monash Sport has shown a commitment to the water safety education of University students in the development and funding of the Water Wise program, including providing staff training and development in the provision on the Austswim Teacher of Adults extension course for nearly 40 Monash Sport staff over 2016 and 2017.
Describe how the nominee has shown commitment to aquatic safety through Public Education
The program was the first of its kind in Australia and has subsequently provided inspiration and support to other Universities and centres across Australia to implement similar programs for University students and young adults. It has been recognized by several leading industry bodies within sport and recreation, with the Monash Sport team invited to present to the industry at conferences such as the 2017 Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers convention and the 2016 and 2017 Austswim Victorian conferences. This industry recognition and support is a testament to the innovation of the Water Wise program and the successful efforts of the Monash Sport team in increasing water safety for University students and the young adult demographic.
The Monash Sport team, through the Water Wise program, have been able to improve upon the availability of high quality learning outcomes for students at Monash University. The program has expanded in 2017 and 2018 to include components of moving water for participants including visits to the wave pool at the Monash Aquatic and Recreation Centre and visits to local beaches with the Lifesaving Victoria multicultural project team providing beach safety information and activities. Throughout 2017, we have seen up to 450 Monash University students attending swimming and water safety lessons each week, with a further approx. 200 adults from the wider community also enrolling and attending lessons each week. We have found that as the program continues to grow within the Monash University student cohort, it has also provided word of mouth promotion and inspiration to adults within the wider community too.
Describe what barriers have been encountered by the nominee in Public Education and how have they been overcome
An initial challenge in developing the program was ensuring that we could create the demand for the Water Wise program; in essence, asking students with no or little prior swimming or water safety knowledge to take lessons to improve this. This was and continues to be incredibly important, as recent research has shown the largest number of drowning deaths in 2016-2017 (43 or 15%) occurred among people aged 25-34 years*. This age group represents our key demographic, and highlights the importance of our program in water safety. Providing high quality lessons, offering a wide range of session times and removing cost barriers to students with funding from Monash University and therefore being able to offer the Water Wise program free to Monash University students allowed us to overcome this hurdle, with demand exceeding initial available spaces.
To address our increasing demand for the Water Wise program, Monash Sport Doug Ellis Swimming Pool has taken advantage of off-peak times to maximise class availability and we have been fortunate enough to receive additional funding from the University to subsidise more places. . The increased class availability has greatly assisted in reaching our 4,500 participants since January 2015.
Additionally, providing the Water Wise program to University students has meant being able to cater classes to a wide range of cultural backgrounds. For example; a number of our female participants were keen to have a female only class available – as this proved to be a contributor in their initial hesitation to have taken swimming classes prior to their Water Wise enrolment. To address this need, Monash Sport has made available female only classes on Saturday evenings (we have 9 classes on offer over a 1.5hour period) , including having all blinds on external facing windows drawn to increase the comfort and sense of security to these students. To increase the awareness and knowledge of our staff in relation to Culturally and Linguistically Diverse students, we have engaged Austswim to conduct a staff workshop on CALD communities and individuals for all swimming instructors on our team. We hope this will hope increase the communication and engagement skills of our staff, further developing our customer service to our students.
The team at Monash Sport have also worked hard to reduce social barriers and potential embarrassment young adults may feel with limited swimming and water safety ability. We provide a welcoming and friendly environment, with peer to peer teaching as many of our Swimming Instructor staff are also Monash University students. We have also put measures in place to increase class attendance, which is a challenge when offering a free program and in Adult Learn to Swim in general. Our teams promote the benefits of regular and ongoing attendance for progress and improvement for the students, our administrative staff regularly monitor attendance and contact students who are not attending regularly and ensure the subsidised places are being utilised by students who are committed and attending. Our swimming instructors develop a team atmosphere in their classes, creating an enjoyable and motivating environment. Our Water Wise participants are encouraged to take advantage of ‘free practice swimming’ outside of their lesson time, to improve their progress, meet with friends they have made in their classes and engage with other staff and customers of our centre. This whole centre approach has seen an increase in attendance, re-enrolments and in turn the progress and satisfaction of the students.
Monash Sport Doug Ellis Swimming Pool has been able to identify and address a range of barriers in delivering the Water Wise program, and continues to find innovative, relevant to target market, solutions to these.