How would you like training Thai Lifeguards on a tropical beach? How about teaching community CPR at a beachfront bar or singing Karaoke with a chorus of Vietnamese lifeguards?

Seven lucky ALS lifeguards from NSW participated in tours to Vietnam and Phuket Thailand earlier this year to do exactly that.

This project began in 2020 with a successful DFAT grant application from the ALS to provide training and lifesaving development to various lifeguard and lifesaving entities in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries. Called the ASEAN Friendship Grant; the application was designed to assist these groups to further develop their lifesaving endeavours to Australian standards.

ALS lifeguard David Field had worked with these group over the past 15 years and the groups willingly provided letters of support for the grant application. COVID-19 delayed the implementation but finally, with the deadline approaching, two tours went ahead in early 2023.

Vietnam: March 2023

Lifeguard group included Lachlan Field, Heli Murray, Mariah Jones, David Field and Susan Eke. Goals Achieved included: re-certifying 52 public lifeguards to Australian standards; qualifying newly employed public lifeguards to Australian standards; supporting public lifeguard managers in their roles; reconnecting and strengthening ties between public lifeguard bodies in Vietnam and Australia; conducting community CPR and children’s water safety activities in cooperation with local lifeguard groups.

The activities took place in collaboration with Danang City Lifeguards, Nha Trang Bay Management Lifeguards and SwimVietnam. A full speed tour with lots of travel and training in different venues. The language barrier was overcome by demonstration and excellent translations from the Surf Life Saving Vietnam representative, Thin Vu.

Although there are some women employed as trained water safety staff in hotels in Vietnam there has only been one woman employed as a lifeguard on a public beach.

For those who attended the highlight was the kids water safety on Danang Beach with around 85 kids and the lifeguard team running things.

Phuket: April 2023

This tour was run in collaboration with Phuket Lifeguard Services aka Phuket Surf Lifesaving Thailand, Thailand Surfing Federation and Australian Consul General to Phuket. The goals were similar to the Vietnam project. On tour were Scott McCartney, Chloe Jones and David Field.

Two teams of lifeguards were trained, a beginning group and an advanced group. During the three days training at Naiharn Beach there were numerous interruptions as Chloe and Scott carried out rescues on people swimming outside the flags. Scott went to the aid of two Russian swimmers, where the man said he was “OK” and his partner said “I am Not!”.

He brought the woman to shore and the man remained in the rip and was later seen escaping by climbing up the barnacle-covered rocks. The next day Chloe helped out the overstretched lifeguards by rescuing an eight-year-old Thai girl.

When Chloe brought her to the beach via a board she was scooped up by the enthusiastic lifeguard trainees in a text book demonstration of the two person pick up and carry – and returned to her mother.

The tour ended with a kid’s water safety activity on Patong Beach and meeting with senior officials from local and Thai national government and followed by dinner out with the Consul General. The goal here is to once again have the 11 Andaman Beaches of Phuket operating under a consistent approach to Beach Management based on Australian standards.

ALS’ Chris O’Rorke, who managed the project, said that the remainder of the funding will be allocated to providing online support for lifesaving entities throughout the region.  Future grant applications will be sought and will be open to qualified ALS staff in order to continue international training and drowning prevention programs.

Thursday 29 June 2023