South Australians and thousands of Surf Life Saving volunteers will benefit from an almost $13 million cash injection that significantly increases operational capacity and secures five crucial club redevelopments in a move that further strengthens water safety at our beaches.

The Marshall Government is committing $12.9m to Surf Life Saving South Australia (SLSSA), including a whopping 33% operational funding boost – the first increase of its kind for the much-loved organisation in more than 15 years.

Premier Steven Marshall said lifesaving activity and first-aid responses in South Australia had increased by more than 77% between 2018 and 2021.

“There are approximately 9,000 dedicated SLSSA volunteers who risk their wellbeing to protect South Australians at our beaches during summer and we know their brave actions save lives,” the Premier said.

“Supporting SLSSA with $12.9m in funding is how we strengthen these incredible lifesaving services well into the future.

“Boosting SLSSA’s operational funding means they have more resources at their disposal to respond to water emergencies and support their volunteers.

“We’re also funding critical club redevelopments that will ensure volunteers have modern, fit-for-purpose facilities that allow them to undertake patrols, important training and education programs.”

The redevelopments – scheduled over the next four years – include Normanville (2022-23), Whyalla and Lonsdale (2023-24), Robe (2024-25) and Moana (2025-26).

Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing, Corey Wingard, said today’s announcement builds on the Marshall Government’s already strong partnership with SLSSA, and follows an almost $5m investment in the completed redevelopment of Port Elliot Surf Life Saving Club – the biggest in SA history.

“The pivotal roles our SLSSA volunteers perform cannot be overstated enough, from patrolling our coastlines to teaching children how to swim through the hugely popular VACSWIM program,” Minister Wingard said.

“The Marshall Government proudly subsidises the VACSWIM program – cutting the cost in half – so families can afford to enrol their children in swimming lessons. This summer alone more than 10,000 South Australian kids are involved, and the program is growing each year.

“Not only does the initiative promote a healthy active lifestyle for children, but more than 800 instructor jobs in the aquatics industry are up for grabs through the program in a win-win for the community.”

SLSSA President, Kevin Watkins, said volunteers performed 11,355 preventative actions in 2018 compared to 20,143 last year.

“Our volunteers do an incredible job saving lives on our beaches. Last year alone, 154 lives were saved because a Surf Life Saver was on patrol and able to rescue them,” Mr Watkins said.

“The more than 80,000 volunteer patrol hours that they performed, across the 21 Surf Life Saving Clubs in SA, provide an invaluable service to the public, to help keep them safe.”

SLSSA CEO, Damien Marangon, said: “This lift in operational funding and the extension of club redevelopment funding, ensures that our dedicated volunteers are able to remain rescue ready, with world leading lifesaving facilities and equipment to support them to protect beachgoers.”

“We thank the South Australian Government for their commitment to Surf Life Saving, and we know that this funding will save lives,” Mr Marangon said.

“We’ve unfortunately already seen too many drowning tragedies across our coast this summer, so having this additional funding means we can continue to support our clubs and volunteers patrolling our beaches, educate more people in our water safety programs and strive towards our vision of zero preventable deaths in SA waters.”

The latest investment follows the delivery of the Marshall Government’s 2018 election commitments, including $630,000 over four years to provide $5,000 to each SLSSA club each year for upgrades to key rescue and emergency response equipment and $190,000 for drones to enhance shark surveillance capability.