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Royal Life Saving Society Australia

Institution: Royal Life Saving Society Australia
The Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) was founded in England in 1891 to combat a high drowning toll. The techniques advocated by the Society were soon adopted by many countries and today the RLSS represents the largest single organisation dedicated to the teaching of lifesaving and the prevention of drowning.

The first Australian Branch was formed in New South Wales in 1894 and the movement soon spread to all States. In December 1924, a dual system of lifesaving was established with Surf Life Saving Australia being responsible for ocean beaches and the Royal Life Saving Society - Australia responsible for all other waterways and stillwater environments.

In subsequent years the Society focused its attention on water safety education and rescue training for inland areas, and particularly for school children. In the immediate pre and post Second World War era the Bronze Medallion was included in many secondary school physical education programs.

During that period, as had been the case for the previous 60 years, the Society's training Manual was imported directly from the United Kingdom and was heavily orientated to a military drill-type approach. However, by the early 1950s a group of dynamic physical educationalists, led by George Turnbull and Frank Henry of the New South Wales Branch, started developing techniques specific to Australian conditions. This controversial but exciting period of the Society's history resulted in 1953 in the first Australian Life Saving Manual.

This period of change in Australia ultimately led to an important international change in 1959 with the establishment of the "Australian National Branch" and the RLSS Commonwealth Society. This time was followed by a period of relative stability, with the water safety and lifesaving programs being used in most Australian schools.

In the late 1970s, the longest and most sustained period of change and growth commenced with the help of a group of Victorian educationalists. At that time no national water safety education program existed. This group recognised that if they could provide a well-balanced and easy-to-follow water safety program, it would be readily accepted by swimming and school teachers nationwide. After trialing a program in a number of States and Territories, the Society launched the "Swim and Survive" program in 1982.