Autism Spectrum Australia

New initiative to make beaches in NSW and QLD more autism-friendly

  • Posted: Mon, 12/02/2018 - 2:12pm


Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) and Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) have introduced a new initiative to make beaches and Surf Life Saving Clubs more inclusive for people with a disability, including those on the autism spectrum.

A new Inclusive Beaches project is being piloted this summer through thirteen Surf Life Saving Clubs across NSW and QLD.

The project which has been developed as part of Surf Life Saving Australia’s commitment to inclusiveness and diversity will provide specialist training, support and resources for people in the surf lifesaving community with a disability.

“We firmly believe in diversity as an organisation and this project highlights our commitment to enabling all members of the community to participate in Surf Life Saving” said Melissa King, Surf Life Saving Australia Chief Executive.

“The Inclusive Beaches Project is providing education and resources for Age Managers on the Nippers Program through to our surf lifesavers on patrol to help people with a disability, including those on the autism spectrum, and their families, confidently enjoy the sensory experience that the ocean offers.

Participating clubs will work with Aspect to increase their knowledge of the autism spectrum and develop inclusive appropriate resources and practices for their community to help those on the spectrum enjoy the benefits of surf lifesaving.

Elouera SLSC, one of the participating clubs, recently introduced its first ever inclusive Nippers program and welcomed ten new families into their community.

“The Elouera Yellow Fins are a Nippers group that supports children on the autism spectrum and with other disabilities to learn important lifesaving skills,” said Libby O’ Sullivan from Elouera SLSC.

“It’s something we have wanted to do for a while, so it was brilliant to see the smiles on children’s faces as they took part in beach activities like sprints and relays.

“The Yellow Fins Nippers takes place alongside all other mainstream Nippers groups on the beach. We run all the usual Nipper activities, with some slight adjustments so that everyone can have a go. We also have lots of volunteers and parent helpers, and the whole group has a relaxed and very positive attitude.”

Adrian Ford, Aspect’s CEO, said he believed all Australians should have the opportunity to access and be included in their community in a safe and meaningful way.

“People on the autism spectrum can often be excluded from beach activities, due to difficulties with communication, specifically, challenges with understanding water safety, knowing the risks and how to seek assistance.”

“We know that some families avoid the beach completely because they believe they would not be able to keep their family member safe and may not be able to access appropriate support if required.”

Funded by the Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) National Readiness Grant, Inclusive Beaches forms part of Aspect’s work towards creating an autism friendly Australia, which has seen collaborations with the Taronga Zoo, Museum of Contemporary Art and more recently with Coles, which recently rolled out the Quiet Hour initiative.

The Inclusive Beaches Project is working with the following Surf Life Saving Clubs:

• North Steyne SLSC

• Elouera SLSC

• The Lakes SLSC

• Caves Beach SLSC

• Southport SLSC

• Sussex Inlet SLSC

• Nambucca Heads SLSC

• Towradgi SLSC

• Copacabana SLSC

• Lennox Head-Alstonville SLSC

• Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore SLSC

• Sarina SLSC

• Cairns Palm Cove SLSC

About Surf Life Saving Australia

Surf Life Saving Australia is the peak coastal water safety, emergency service and rescue authority. We have over 169,000 members across 311 affiliated Surf Life Saving clubs, representing the largest volunteer movement of its kind in Australia.

Our Surf Life Saving members performed over 10 thousand rescues and nearly 4 million preventative actions last season that’s 30 rescues a day and over 900 preventative actions every hour.

Surf Life Saving Australia exists to save lives, create great Australians and build better communities.

About Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect)

Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) is an Australian not-for-profit provider of services and supports working with people on the autism spectrum and their families. From diagnosis and assessments, early intervention and therapies, to specialised schooling, social groups, employment mentoring and research programs; Aspect provides support for the whole family. Aspect works with over 15,000 Australian families of all ages, from the early years to adulthood and is a registered NDIS provider.

For more information contact:

SLSA Media Team


M: 0407 286 619

Aspect Inclusive Beaches Officer


M: 0435 656 213

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New initiative to make beaches in NSW and QLD more autism-friendly