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Drownings fall across Australian summer of extremes

Drownings fall across Australian summer of extremes
March 19, 2020

Media monitoring carried out by Royal Life Saving Society - Australia suggests that 66 people lost their lives to drowning between 1st December 2019 and 29th February 2020.

Based on media monitoring alone, this represents a marked reduction in the number of summer drowning deaths compared with the same period in previous years. However, Royal Life Saving emphasise that it is important to note that final numbers may vary following the compilation of coronial statistics.

The past summer, Australia’s second hottest on record, was one of extremes. The first half was hot and dry and this was followed by above-average rainfall in some regions. This is in stark contrast to the summer of 2018/19, which was the hottest on record and saw the highest number of drowning deaths in the past decade.

Commenting on the findings, Royal Life Saving Chief Executive, Justin Scarr stated “this dramatic reduction in drowning deaths from previous years may be due to a combination of factors, including the bushfires and smoke haze limiting people’s willingness to visit pools, beaches and waterways, restrictions on holiday plans, as well as changes in international tourism.

“While it is good to see the number of drowning deaths decrease, these figures must be kept in perspective. There is no room for complacency. There is no cure for drowning - only prevention. Everyone needs to be aware of the risks, and the consequences of their actions when recreating in, on and around the water. It is therefore vital that people follow safety advice to keep themselves, and their family and friends safe.”

This summer, a reduction in drowning deaths was seen in almost every State and Territory in the country, with Queensland experiencing the largest drop compared with the previous year, and Tasmania experiencing no change.

The research also shows a 50% decrease in drowning deaths among children aged 0 to 17 years compared with the previous year.

The data for 2019/20 shows that:

• Most drowning deaths were found to occur in December, accounting for almost 40% of all drowning deaths this summer, which is similar to that seen in previous years.
• Males accounted for 91% this summer compared with 80% in the previous years.
• Swimming and recreating continues to account for most drowning deaths.
• The number of drowning deaths while boating or using watercraft increased compared with previous years.

Interestingly, the proportion of drowning deaths occurring in different age groups has stayed largely static over the past four years.

Scarr added “as always, we want people to love and enjoy the water, but we ask that people do so safely. It is really important that people actively supervise children, avoid alcohol around water, wear a lifejacket when boating or using watercraft, and avoid swimming alone.”

Royal Life Saving’s ‘Summer Drowning Toll’ is carried out each summer to help inform and support advocacy and policy development for drowning prevention programs through evidence-based research. This involves media monitoring to identify unintentional drowning deaths throughout Australia, which are subsequently verified through the National Coronial Information System (NCIS).

Image shows a rescue simulation at the Australian Pool Life Saving Champsionships.

Related Articles

18th March 2020 - Royal Life Saving releases position statement on the impact of Coronavirus on aquatic facilites

18th March 2020 - Westpac Life Saver Rescue Drone program to help reduce drownings

9th March 2020 - Royal Life Saving WA releases REFLECT Reconciliation Action Plan

2nd March 2020 - Pride in Sport program welcomes Surf Life Saving Australia

27th February 2020 - Royal Life Saving helps new migrants with learn to swim and water safety program

24th February 2020 - Life Saving Victoria launches updated online School Swimming and Water Safety Toolkit

21st February 2020 - Brimbank Council and Life Saving Victoria partner to improve water safety education

12th February 2020 - Royal Life Saving ACT to stage lakeside family event to promote water safety

29th January 2020 - Life Saving Victoria pilots inland ‘Bush Nippers’ water safety skills program

5th December 2019 - AUSTSWIM receives funding boost to combat multicultural drownings

2nd December 2019 - Rescue tubes trialled at Coffs Harbour beaches to help reduce drownings

2nd December 2019 - Victorian drowning report shows worst toll in 20 years

12th November 2019 - South Australian beach drowning inquest calls for enhanced warning signs and lifesavers to operate over longer hours

7th November 2019 - NSW lifeguards look to halt drownings of foreign swimmers this summer

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