In previous years, figures had been steadily dropping, but the last two years have seen a 21% increase. (www.royallifesaving.com.au)
As a qualified Swimming and Water Safety Teacher of 17 years and Manager of a Swim School for 9 years, this report is of great interest and concern to me. Children under 5 years are particularly most vulnerable to drowning, however, there are three interesting facts in this report. One third of the drownings are in the over 55 age group (generally boat/harbour incidents); secondly there has been an increase in drownings in lakes, dams and lagoons; the third fact is that 251 males died as opposed to 63 females. Making males four times more likely to drown than females. Are they more adventurous and risk takers?
Royal Life Saving CEO, Rob Bradley said, "We are staggered and very concerned by the increase in drowning deaths and the reversal of the long-term downward trend. We remain absolutely committed to driving national efforts to reduce drowning. We are committed to a coordinated and targeted approach to prevent drowning in communities across Australia. We will continue to work closely with governments, organisations, the community and the corporate sector to address this alarming situation."
As I was reading this report, I noticed that the majority of 0 - 4 year olds died from falling into a swimming pool in Summer. The 5 - 9 year olds seem to be drowning in pools while doing swimming/leisure activities or just simply jumping in during the seasons of Spring and Summer. 10 - 17 year olds seem are swimming for leisure in Spring/Summer and drowning more so in rivers, creeks, dams and lagoons.
I am the Manager of a Swim School in Queensland. Queensland figures made up 85 of the 314 drownings. I have conversations regularly with parents of children who pull their kids out of swimming lessons in Terms 2 & 3 and start back again in Term 4. Spring falls into the category of the September school holidays and then the beginning of Term 4. Parents may be letting the kids back in a swimming pool after winter and assuming their skills are still where they were when they finished back in Term 1 lessons. The break is from April through to September. I see the impact of children not doing lessons for one term (10-12 weeks). Coming back to lessons with majorly reduced skills and strength in the water. Not to mention their reduced ability after two terms break (20 - 24 weeks).
There has been some speculation over the years about the benefits of teaching children swimming under the age of 4 years. The American Academy of Paediatrics 10 years ago had the view that children weren't developmentally ready for lessons under the age of 4 and were not convinced children under that age could learn swimming & safety techniques. (healthland.time.com). Thankfully they have recently revised this stance.
We teach children at my Swim School from the age of around 6 months through to Squad levels. Children who have committed parents, get earlier results. It doesn't happen instantly either.
I am a huge believer in starting children in lessons before their first birthday and continuing until the child can swim a lap or two of a few strokes (but definitely right up until the last year of primary school). Not only are there health benefits to this kind of exercise, but the skills you input in your child is for life. It is like when we learn to drive as teenagers. It takes us a while to get the coordination of clutch and gears, then during the "P-Plate years", we are still a little shaky with skill, but highly confident (and potentially dangerous), then we cruise around in the car for years onwards, not even thinking twice about what we are doing.
There will always be outside factors, no matter how skilful you are as a driver. There are still risks. But, without established learning and practice and due diligence, the potential for an accident is higher. I see learning to swim in a similar light.
Some cases I have seen through our swim school; 16 - 24 month olds with the skill to jump in and immediately return to the edge of the pool and hopping out safely; 2 year olds dog paddling 5 metres, lifting their head for a breath and continuing swimming back to a step or wall; 3 year olds swimming Freestyle and Backstroke 10 metres, and I have also had many 5 year olds starting Mini Squad training.
All of these children have parents who committed themselves to their child's swimming lessons and they saw the results. These children are still not protected from drowning. There can be other elements that can inhibit a child's strength in the water, such as other children, an injury, a bump to the head, shock, or wearing clothes that pull them down. The list goes on. There is nothing better than adult supervision very close to the bath, pool, river, or any water your child is in, and the importance of resuscitation skills by those parents. Safety starts at the home pool, with fencing/pool maintenance and adult supervision.
Psalm 139:13-18 says, "You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvellous - how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can't even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!"
Life is precious.
Belinda Scotland is from the Sunshine Coast, QLD. She has a heart and passion for God, mission and social justice. Currently Belinda is the Manager of a Swim School and serving her local community.