Albany ocean safety instructor Tony Harrison is calling on the State Government to introduce an ocean awareness program in WA’s primary school curriculum to save lives. Mr Harrison has been teaching surfing and ocean safety to Great Southern school groups for about 20 years — and he wants to see a program similar to his taught across the State. His call for action comes a year after a young Northam couple were swept off rocks near Albany, and just weeks after WA’s latest ocean tragedy, when a 23-year-old woman disappeared near Yallingup last month. Last month’s tragedy prompted Graeme Drew to make a public appeal for people to wear life jackets, 17 years after his late nephew Nathan Drew was swept off rocks at Salmon Holes. Mr Harrison said there was a lack of education around simple techniques that could save lives. “Most people panic and swim back to the rocks to get out — that’s the worst thing to do,” he said. “If you had one wave to wash you off, there’s going to be another one coming that’ll smash you against the rocks. “I tell all my students if someone gets washed off, swim out into deeper water to get away from the waves.” Mr Harrison said the Department of Education needed to implement an ocean awareness course. “If I had ... been teaching stuff the headmasters thought was no use, they would have told me a long time ago, so it must be working,” he said. Education Minister Sue Ellery said the School Curriculum and Standards Authority was an independent body that regulated the school curriculum. She said the department provided VacSwim and Interm swimming programs to build children’s swimming ability and safety in and around the water. Schools delivered the curriculum in the context of their local area, she said. “Both of these programs include the capacity for schools to request beach venues, and the program is tailored to the local environment,” Ms Ellery said. “This may be either an open water program, such as the one run at Emu Point, or a surf program designed to teach students about more challenging aquatic environments, such as the program run at Middleton Beach. “Swimming and water safety programs in pools, waterholes and oceans incorporate the development of a range of transferable skills to respond and take action for their own and others’ safety.” Mr Harrison said one basic rescue technique involved a plastic bottle and a nylon rope, two items he urged people to carry with them if they were going to the ocean. “Get a water bottle, tip out half the water, and throw it out on the rope,” he said. “The person in the water grabs hold of it and sticks it up their shirt, and then they wait or swim to a beach. If there’s no beach, this float will have enough buoyancy to hold the person afloat until sea rescue comes.” This week, Mr Harrison has been teaching a group of primary school students from Ongerup. “(We cover) identifying rips, what a sandbank looks like, how to get out of rips, and how they can rescue a person if someone gets washed off the rocks, without putting themselves at risk,” he said. “Primary school is usually the best age to start educating kids about ocean awareness. “A fair number of these kids will go fishing or walking around rocks when they’re older, and if they’ve still got that knowledge in the back of their brain, they’ll survive, or in a rescue they’ll know what to do.” Reflecting on recent tragedies around the Albany coastline, Mr Harrison said more awareness about the power of the ocean could have saved lives.