The Queensland government has defended itself against claims it ignored calls to make school swimming lessons mandatory to prevent children from drowning.
Surf Life Saving Queensland wrote to the Labor government in December 2016 urging it to introduce a compulsory swimming program through schools.
The current program is at the discretion of school principals.
SLSQ chief operating officer George Hill wrote the letter arguing that lessons that give students swimming skills and awareness would save lives and also significantly reduce the number of incidents on beaches, in dams, rivers and pools.
However, Mr Hill says the plea was ignored, with departmental representatives failing to set up a meeting with then-education minister Kate Jones.
The warning about water safety comes as two young children were taken to hospital after near-drownings in Queensland in the past 24 hours while a two-year-old reportedly died on Monday night after being found unconscious in a Darling Downs pool last week.
Newly appointed education minister Grace Grace on Wednesday said the departmental meetings with SLSQ had been beneficial and denied they were ignoring their recommendations.
“From that, we were able to increase funding which started this year for school swimming grants that are given to schools and also to look at other ways we can increase the number of children taking swimming lessons,” Ms Grace told reporters on the Gold Coast.
“All options are on the table … but Queensland is a very large, diverse state.
It’s very hard to have a compulsory swimming program in a controlled environment where there are no pools available as in some remote areas.”
Ms Grace also pointed out expert advice called for children to start swimming lessons well before they started school.
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said she was seeking an urgent meeting with SLSQ herself to discuss the issue.
“We actually took a policy to the last election in relation to swimming vouchers for children between one and four to learn to swim all over Queensland,” she said.
“I think it’s really important when you look at the figures of drownings, it is happening between the ages of one and four.
“And so whilst it is important for school kids to learn to swim, we need to focus on those bubs.”