In September 2015, the annual 'Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report' was released. The results are tallied from July to June each year. The report recorded 271 drownings for this past year—an increase of 5 on the previous year's statistics. (See the full report here).
The report shows statistics, but these statistics represent real people and real families who have endured either fatal or non-fatal incidents in Australian waters.
Australia is surrounded by water and as Aussies we live a very water-focussed lifestyle. We picnic by rivers, we fish on the rocks, we take the boat for a spin, we swim in dams and we paddle in creeks.
Tianne is a mum of four daughters and knows too well how quickly and silently these incidents can happen. Her second daughter (now 18) was found at the bottom of a friend's pool at the age of 3. The friend had no children and generally the pool gates were left open for the dogs to go in and out. Luckily the little girl was found when she was and it was a happy ending for their family. After the incident they immediately enrolled her in swimming lessons.
'We have a close friend that lost her 18 month old little boy to backyard drowning—it was heart-breaking.' Tianne explains.
In 2009 Tianne enrolled her third child, Trinity, in swimming lessons at the age of 8 months. 'I believe swimming lessons give a child the best chance of survival if accidents happen.'
Tianne continued Trinity in her lessons every year to help her improve her swimming skills. 'We live so close to the beach and are around water so much that we feel it very important for our children to have the skills to save themselves, while having fun and loving the water.' she said.
The whole family love any water activities, including the beach. They have their own jet-ski and are involved in a local Surf Life Saving Club. Tianne's older two daughters have both been through nippers and Trinity is following in her sisters' footsteps after joining three years ago.
'You want to give your children the best chance to be able to tackle the ocean and be as safe as possible. At nippers, Trinity (now 7 years old) learns safety skills, board training and reading the ocean.' Tianne explained.
Captured in the Royal Life Saving Annual Report is the surprising fact that 80% of drowning victims were male. Even more surprising is the increase in drownings in the 45–54 year age group. The majority of those who drowned in this age bracket (67%) recorded a blood alcohol level 4 times the legal limit or higher.
There was also a 30% increase in drownings in the 0–4 year age group. There were 26 deaths in this age group, compared to 20 in the previous year—the majority of incidents occurred in swimming pools.
Justin Scarr (CEO of the Royal Life Saving Society Australia) says, 'The large increase in drowning in children under the age of five is alarming. Active adult supervision and restricting access to water, through properly installed and correctly maintained pool fences, are key strategies to reduce these tragic child drowning incidents.'
RLS Australia highlights the point that drowning deaths are registered throughout the year, with the largest number occurring in summer (89 deaths), followed by autumn (66 deaths), spring (60 deaths) and winter (56 deaths).
Let's reduce these statistics!
As we enter the summer season, there are many things we can do to assist in reducing the national drowning statistics:
- Keep children in swimming lessons or at least practising all year for the maintenance of their strength and skill
- Avoid combining alcohol with aquatic activities
- Wear life jackets whilst involved in watercraft activities
- Always swim between the flags at the beach
- Constant supervision of children, even if they can swim
I have been a professional in the water safety industry for 21 years, so this report is of special interest to me. It also assists in cementing my passion for what I do and reminds me how precious and fragile life can be.
I have been privileged to be a part of the learning to swim and water safety journey of many families. Equipping the young and old with essential skills and knowledge is very satisfying and plays an integral part in bringing down the statistics of lives lost to water-related incidents.
Belinda Croft has been writing for Press Service International since 2010. In 2015 she won the PSI Basil Sellers Australian Young Writer of the Year Award. She lives on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland with her husband Russell and their three children. Her passion for understanding the things of God in simple ways, social justice and current news influence her writing style.
Belinda Croft's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/belinda-croft.html