Preparation key to water safety this summer, drowning report warns

Published on 02/12/2020

Victorians are being urged to take extra care around water this summer, with Life Saving Victoria (LSV) concerned a number of trends in the latest drowning figures could be exacerbated by a lack of preparedness for water activities over the warmer months.

The Victorian Drowning Report for 2019-20, released today as part of Water Safety Week (30 November – 6 December), shows there were 34 drowning deaths in Victoria and 100 non-fatal drowning incidents last financial year.

LSV’s Principal Research Associate Dr Bernadette Matthews said while this was a 23 percent decrease on the drowning rate compared to the 10-year average, there were some worrying trends that highlighted the importance of not being complacent about water safety.

“Every drowning death is one too many, and unfortunately this year’s statistics paint a picture that suggests people aren’t adequately preparing themselves for a day out on or around the water or may be underestimating the risks,” Dr Matthews said.

“Males continue to be overrepresented in the drowning statistics and are four times more likely to drown than females, with men aged 25-44 years making up more than a quarter of all drowning deaths for the 2019-20 year.

“Another age group showing an increase in drownings is the 15-24 year age group, which has seen a 22 per cent increase in the drowning rate on the 10-year average. We know drinking alcohol around water remains a high-risk activity for all age groups that should be avoided.”

Of additional concern, looking ahead to the summer, was the increase in drowning incidents since the start of this financial year, with 18 reported drowning deaths in Victoria between 1 July 2020 and 11 November 2020.

“This is six more than the five-year average and seven more than the 10-year average. Behind all these numbers, what we’re really talking about is life-changing tragedy for many Victorian families,” Dr Matthews said.

The Play It Safe By The Water (PISBTW) group of agencies has worked diligently to ensure all Victorians got the message about the need to be extra safe by the water this summer.

“If you’re planning to visit a beach, inland waterway or pool this summer, prepare to stay safe around the water, as well as staying COVIDSafe,” Dr Matthews said.

“We are facing a summer where most Victorians have had limited or no exposure to waterways and aquatic recreation in almost a year, so it’s crucial to be prepared before a day out on or around the water.

“Before you head to the beach, check the website to find a patrolled beach, be aware of your abilities – especially if you have had a lengthy period away from the water or a trying a new aquatic activity – and be well prepared for the weather and the conditions.

“Once you’re there, read the safety signs, swim between the red and yellow flags and always supervise young children near water.

“We encourage Victorians to prepare by taking advantage of LSV’s new Virtual Reality resources, launched today, that invite viewers to explore at-risk aquatic environments while learning about key water safety messages designed to keep them safe.

“We’re also pleased today to see acknowledgement at a national level of a day dedicated to water safety, with December 1 becoming the country’s inaugural National Water Safety Day.

“It’s a further reminder to all Australians, just like Victorians, to play it extra safe while enjoying the water this summer.”

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