Award winning water safety inclusion program kicks off tomorrow at Sandy Bay

Tuesday 19 January 2021

Surf Life Saving Tasmania (SLST) is passionate about promoting inclusivity. As part of a larger Special Needs Inclusion Strategy, and with the support of a National network of volunteers, SLST rolled out the Starfish Nippers Program. Now in its third year, and after winning the prestigious Get Moving Tasmania Physical Activity Award at the 2020 Tasmanian Community Achievement Awards, the program is back – celebrating being bigger and better than ever. This year SLST will be providing even more young people with disabilities and their families, the opportunity to participate in a recreational activity, that enables children to take part in swimming, catching waves, using lifesaving equipment, beach runs and exercises just like other surf lifesavers do. It will contribute to SLST’s ultimate aim of reduce aquatic injury and death and provides a long-lasting sustainable aquatic inclusion strategy.

Tomorrow, the 2021 program kicks off at Long Beach, Sandy Bay as part of a month-long Holiday Program. We will see 40 participate in the program over 4 sessions on Wednesday and Thursday. Since the first program ran back in 2018, there has been a growing interest in targeted opportunities like Starfish Nippers and we have seen a committed community of volunteers and families form, many who will be taking part in the program will be returning participants from previous years.

Starfish Nippers are not possible without the dedication and support of 25 volunteers who will become 'Lifesaver Buddy's’ to provide one-on-one support throughout the day. The program not only aims to improve confidence and skill in and around the water but is an invaluable opportunity for volunteers, children with disabilities and their families to meet new friends and connect with other families and support networks. Prior to COVID-19 lockdown, a number of SLST’s clubs planned to run their own local Starfish Nippers programs alongside existing club activities. Unfortunately, this was not possible, but as we come out the other side, the aim is to seek new funding to further extend the program to 400 participants statewide.

Another celebration to be had tomorrow will be the first use of a fleet of brand-new fit for purpose beach wheelchairs. Initiated back in 2019, a partnership formed between a group of individuals undertaking the Tasmanian Leaders’ Program and SLST to promote inclusion and equality while raising awareness about restricted mobility access by implementing therapeutic beach wheelchairs at 4 beach locations across Tasmania. The project known as ‘Wheels to Waves’ will see these chairs hosted by the Surf Life Saving Clubs at Bicheno, Ulverstone, Port Sorell and Kingston Beach, available to the public 365 days of the year. Many of the clubs are also exploring the opportunity to build infrastructure at their clubs that will enable 24/7 accessibility of these life changing pieces of equipment. The project will officially launch on Saturday 20th March in Kingston where all project supporters, sponsors and funders will be recognised. 

Bridget Fasnacht, Starfish Nippers Program Coordinator for Surf Life Saving Tasmania;

“Starfish nippers is all about encouraging children to feel safe in the water in a supported environment.   The beach is not a scary place, it is there to be enjoyed and we are there to support these children on their journey.  Every year I love seeing all the smiles on the children's faces when they get to paddle a board or play beach games, and I think the volunteers who assist the program get as much out of the sessions as the children!   I am delighted to see that we have record numbers participating in the program this year and I am looking forward to seeing the program being run at several surf lifesaving clubs around the state this summer”.  


Bridget Fasnacht | Starfish Nippers Program Coordinator & Media Liaison

M: 0437 583 961

Leanne Johannesen | Training & Community Programs Manager

M: 0447 287 847




Award winning water safety inclusion program kicks off tomorrow at Sandy Bay