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Coastal drownings prompts new campaign for international tourists and migrants

Coastal drownings prompts new campaign for international tourists and migrants
November 11, 2010

82 coastal drowning deaths in Australia in 2009/10 have led Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) to launch an ‘international visitors and migrant initiative’.

The recently released 2010 National Coastal Safety Report (NCSR) revealed a total of 82 coastal drowning deaths in Australia for the 2009/10 year with particular concern attached to the growing drowning rate of international tourists and migrants - who represent one third of the total coastal drowning deaths.

While the overall number of coastal drowning deaths has declined below the five year average of 88, the proportion of international visitors and migrant drownings has continued to rise over the last five years. In 2006 there were at least nine international tourists and migrants drowning, compared to 26 recorded in 2009-2010.

SLSA Chief Executive Brett Williamson OAM explains “our research indicates that this high risk group has limited English skills, a lack of knowledge about the beach, over-estimate their swimming ability, inadequate swimming skills and a general lack of surf safety awareness.

“As a result Surf Life Saving, has developed an initiative to target international visitors and migrants. These resources have been developed in consultation with multi-cultural marketing experts and aim to communicate essential beach safety messages to a diverse audience, who may be unfamiliar with beach and water safety practices.

“We are pleased to have such strong support from the tourism industry including Tourism Australia and Australian Tourism Export Council as well as some of the international airlines who are committed to working with us to promote beach safety.

“The information is delivered through eight languages but also uses imagery so that the message can be interpreted by anyone.”

Surf Life Saving has secured opportunities for in-flight promotion on six international airlines which will feature the video resource in all pre-landing vision to reach a large number of international visitors. The confirmed airlines include Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Air New Zealand, China Airlines and South African Airlines

The resources include animated videos, brochures, online games, posters and other mediums and are translated into eight different languages including English, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Hindi, Malay and Arabic.

Women’s World Champion Surfer Stephanie Gilmore has come on board as the ambassador for the campaign and is a passionate advocate for Australian beach and water safety. Stephanie says, “growing up on Australian beaches I have seen firsthand the great work that Australian surf lifesavers and lifeguards do. I am so excited to be an ambassador for this great campaign.

“I have witnessed many tourists on Australian beaches getting into trouble simply because they don’t know the basic swimming rules such as swimming between the red and yellow flags. To many Australians these rules seem like second nature, but they are not to international visitors. I really believe that educating people on surf safety will help save lives this summer.”

The resources for international tourists will be translated into eight languages and will educate on five simple beach safety messages which are to:

• Always swim between the red and yellow flags;
• Read the safety signs;
• Ask a surf lifesaver or lifeguard for safety advice;
• Swim with a friend;
• If you need help, stay calm and attract attention.

The initiative will use distribution streams across government, transport, tourism and education and will be targeted towards high-risk groups throughout their temporary and permanent stays. Beyond the pre-landing vision on select airlines, the resources will be delivered through tourism conventions in an effort to secure industry support. Surf lifesavers and lifeguards will also be distributing the resources on beaches around Australia.

The National Coastal Safety Report released today also revealed that during 2009/2010 season there were 82 coastal drowning deaths, 19 (23%) were attributed to the high-risk activity of rock fishing, while there were 20 (24%) confirmed incidents directly related to rip currents. As a breakdown of these drowning deaths, 39 (48%) occurred in NSW, 15 (18%) in Queensland, 13 (16%) in Victoria, nine (11%) in WA, three (4%) in Tasmania, two (2%) in South Australia and one (1%) in the Northern Territory.

Males continue to dominate the fatality figures representing 80% (66) of coastal drowning death victims, with the 40-49 age group most represented with 17 (21%).

In addition to the International Visitors and Migrants campaign, Surf Life Saving has also developed a number of educational and public safety programs aimed at addressing ongoing trends revealed in the NCSR. This includes a rip currents campaign launched last in 2008/09, a rock fishing safety campaign in partnership with national sports fishing groups as well as a National Blackspot Reduction program.

This website was developed as part of the campaign and translates beach safety messages into more than 30 languages.

For more information go to

Images: The dangerous Figure Eight Rock Pool south of Sydney (top) and a swimmer in difficulty (courtesy of Surf Life Saving Queensland).

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