PEOPLE lined the sea wall in Mindarie.
Concerned, worried, anxious. Somebody’s loved one was under the water.
Turned out to be a lovely Sudanese boy – born in a Ugandan refugee camp and settled in Perth with his family three years ago.
Not a strong swimmer, it was said, with his death prompting a call from Surf Life Saving WA for a culture shift that migrants along with all children should be encouraged through government-funded campaigns to learn to swim, an essential skill for a West Australian.
But along with learning to swim comes learning about beach safety and all that entails. So to blame the City of Wanneroo for the tragic drowning of Jenon George Biwot at one of its beaches would be wrong.
It is a victim of its fast population growth and the attractiveness of some of its unpatrolled beaches.
Many of its overseas-born residents, lacking swimming skills and surf nous, have been caught out in rips just like migrants and tourists at other Perth metropolitan beaches .
The City, however, can help by adding its voice to the call for a swimming awareness campaign for new West Australians.
And it can act to expedite the audit it rightly called for from SLS WA, add words such as “caution” to its rip sign at the Claytons beach staircase and put a ‘dangerous rip’ message at the beach’s Long Beach Promenade entrance.
In the meantime, the openness and generosity of Jenon’s father has inspired the community to learn more about the Sudanese community without any prejudice based on whether they can swim.
And let the community surround this grieving family just as residents lined Alexandria View on Sunday evening, hoping against hope as volunteer sea rescue crews scoured the sea as if they were looking for their own.