Drownings across Australia have increased by 3% compared to this time last year, and despite efforts to increase public awareness on water safety, a new report has found.
Launched today, The Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report 2017 shows that 291 people died as a result of drowning in Australia in the 2016/17 financial year, up from 282 drowning deaths in 2015/16.
Life Saving Victoria Principal Research Associate Dr Bernadette Matthews said the report was a “sobering reminder” for Australian’s to not forget about water safety.
“Australians love the water. It’s an important part of our culture,” she said.
“The sad fact that 291 people drowned last year is a sobering reminder to always actively supervise children around water, for people young and old to learn to swim and survive, to increase lifejacket use, reduce alcohol consumption around water and to always Respect the River.”
The report found Australian’s underestimate the dangers of the nation’s waterways, with drowning deaths occurring in inland waterways, along the coast and in swimming pools.
Rivers were the leading location for fatal drowning with 68 drowning deaths, followed by beaches (50 deaths), ocean / harbour locations (46 deaths) and swimming pools (44 deaths) – which peaked unsurprisingly during the warmer summer months.
“Last summer was shocking, with drowning deaths in New South Wales four times higher than the average between Christmas and New Year,” said Royal Life Saving CEO Justin Scarr.
“Analysis highlights the risks of swimming in unpatrolled locations, risk taking by young men, and the need for water safety awareness among high risk populations.”
In 2008 the Australian Water Safety Council set an ambitious goal of reducing drowning by 50% by 2020, with interim analysis showing an overall 24% reduction in fatal drowning despite significant changes in the size and makeup of the Australian population.
“Reducing drowning by 24% is a significant achievement and means there are 90 people here today who otherwise would have drowned last year,” Mr Scarr added.
“The most pleasing progress has been in reducing drowning in children aged 0-14 years by 36%.”