Water safety advocate Laurie Lawrence has welcomed funding from the federal government but urged its Victorian counterpart to step up commitments.
The swimming coach met with Health Minister Sussan Ley on Friday following a $1 million boost to his Kids Alive Do the Five program.
The partnership will see educational resource packs sent to more than 50,000 preschools and early learning centres around Australia over the next two weeks.
Lawrence applauded the pledge but was less convinced about the Victorian government’s announcement to make swimming a mandatory part of the physical education curriculum.
“It’s fantastic the government have said, ‘It’s mandatory kids learn to swim’ … but why didn’t they put some money into it?” he said.
“They’ve pushed it on to the schools to find the money to do it.
“It’s got to be a full government proposition if we’re going to have swimming in schools.”
Ms Ley supported the funding of mandatory lessons.
“Absolutely they should – I just think swimming lessons should be the highest priority on the curriculum,” she said.
“I’m open to to any conversations any state ministers want to have with me about making sure that happens.
“Ultimately, it’s a matter for those state governments and their school curriculum.”
A year to July, 280 people drowned, including 21 youngsters aged under four – making for a total 13 higher than the previous year.
In the North East, there have been three near-drownings in the last two months – at Everton, Harrietville and Wodonga.
Ms Ley urged Border residents to play their part in the government’s bid to halve drowning deaths by 2020.
“If you know of someone who’s recently come to this country who doesn’t understand how deadly our rivers can be, talk to them,” she said.
“If you’re a parent, make sure your children go to swimming lessons.
“Make sure that everything that can be done to raise awareness in your family and in your community by you, is being done.”