Migrant water safety cash call after double drowning

Nyibol Gatluak |

Life Saving Victoria is calling for more funding for multicultural water safety programs.
Life Saving Victoria is calling for more funding for multicultural water safety programs.

The drowning of two men from Melbourne’s Indian community has prompted a plea from lifesavers to inject more cash into multicultural water safety programs.

Dharmvir Singh, 38, and Gurjinder Singh, 65, drowned after leaping into a pool at a Gold Coast hotel on Sunday trying to save the younger man’s child.

The father and grandfather were able to get the child to safety but could not swim, police said.

Multicultural communities are five times more likely to drown when swimming and the Indian community are particularly vulnerable, according to Life Saving Victoria.

Following the tragedy, the state’s peak water safety body said urgent action was needed to better support multicultural communities around water, with 28,000 migrants arriving in Victoria each year.

Philanthropic organisations and local governments have been forced to fill gaps in funding, Life Saving Victoria’s diversity and inclusion advisor David Holland said.

“We’re at the stage now where (programs) won’t operate without the generosity and the assistance of the state government,” he told reporters on Friday.

”We’re pretty much tapped out.”

Life Saving Victoria wants to develop the water skills of as many African, Asian and Middle Eastern people as possible so they can work as pool lifeguards, swim teachers and volunteers.

“For people who can’t come to the beach and learn, we’ll go to their classroom, church, sporting clubs, community centre, homework group and we’ll deliver (programs) there,” Mr Holland said.

Victorian minister Vicki Ward said the state government had spent more than $400,000 on supporting multicultural community water safety awareness.

“We will continue to work with our communities and … with our swimming industry to see how we can continue to help keep Victorians safe,” she said.

Over the 2023-24 summer months, 99 people drowned in Australia.

Royal Life Saving chief executive Justin Scarr said there had been at least 34 drownings across the country in March.

Victorians are being urged to consider their swimming abilities before entering pools, rivers, beaches and other waterways amid the Easter school holidays.