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Queensland Coast Safe Report identifies dangerous beaches and older men in drowning hazards
The age of coastal drowning victims on Queensland’s beaches has risen over the past decade, with the newly released 2016 Coast Safe Report showing that the average age of drowning victims was 44.5 years.
The Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ), reveals mature swimmers and surfers are venturing further from flagged areas and entering the water outside patrol hours at their own peril.
The report, which analysed fatalities in 2015/16 and draws on a decade of data, identifies trends that will force changes to the movement’s safety campaigns and strategies.
Surf Life Saving Queensland Chief Operating Officer George Hill said there were 11 surf drownings last season, the equal worst result for outside-the-flags tragedies since 2004/05.
Drownings were recorded at Maroochydore, Warana and Kings Beach on the Sunshine Coast, Southport Spit, Southport Main Beach and Broadbeach on the Gold Coast, Fraser Island, Teewah (north of Noosa), Redcliffe, Fitzroy Island and Palm Cove.
All of the drownings occurred at either unpatrolled locations or outside designated patrol times.
Hill said the rise in the average age of those taking deadly risks was vastly higher than the five-year average of 33.3 years and 10-year average of 29 years.
In the past, young males were considered most at risk.
Hill said people became more complacent as they aged, stating “a lot of elderly people like to walk and swim early and they are often on their own, or in couples.
“It’s pretty alarming as our strength has always been in educating primary school and junior high students before they move into the high-risk category. We now plan to have a heightened presence at events, such as markets, and also at retirement resorts to spread safety information to older groups.”
The Report shows that the majority of surf victims are now Australian-born, showing the success of a targeted campaign to reduce the number of tourist tragedies, with only 18% of those who lost their lives outside the flags in 2015/16 were from overseas.
This was an encouraging improvement on the 10-year average, which was almost 60%.
SLSQ's Surf Speak initiative. Image courtesy of the University of Queensland.
Hill said the response was encouraging and a tribute to campaigns targeting people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds considered ‘high-risk’” because of limited understanding of local beach conditions.
Last year, SLSQ also launched Surf Speak, a water-resistant booklet containing phrases in 11 different languages to help lifesavers and lifeguards engage more easily with non-English speaking beachgoers and show them how to stay safe.
SLSQ has also revealed that Gold Coast surf lifesavers will trial night vision surveillance cameras and increase patrols after two of its beaches were found to be among the state's most dangerous.
With Surfers Paradise identified as Queensland's most fatal beach (with eight confirmed drownings in the past decade) SLSQ said there would be a return of dusk patrols and livesavers would engage with beachgoers to educate them about surf safety and conditions.
Hill concluded "moving forward we'll continue to investigate and explore all options when it comes to saving lives, but at the same time, we're pleading will all beachgoers to help us out as well.”
More than 18 million people visited a patrolled beach in 2015/16, up from 15.75 million and 13.5 million in the previous two years.
Key findings from the 2016 Coast Safe Report:
• 11 people drowned outside the flags in 2015/16 – Queensland’s equal worst result in more than a decade
• 10 were male and one female
• Three died on the Sunshine Coast, three on the Gold Coast, one at Fraser Island, one at Teewah (north of Noosa) and others at Fitzroy Island, Palm Cove and Redcliffe
• 44.5 years was the average age of the victims, way up on the 10 year average of 29
• 36% died before 8am
• 45.5% of deaths occurred more than 2.5 kilomotres from a patrolled area
• 82% were Australian residents
• No lives were lost between SLSQ’s red and yellow flags
Queensland’s most dangerous beaches:
• Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast
• Green Island, North Queensland
• Southport Spit, Gold Coast
• Discovery Beach to Point Arkwright, Sunshine Coast
• Fraser Island (ocean side)
• Noosa River to Rainbow Beach, Sunshine Coast
Click here to view the 2016 Coast Safe Report.
Images courtesy of Surf Life Saving Queensland unless otherwise stated.
15th September 2016 - NEW REPORT SHOWS NO IMPROVEMENT IN ANNUAL DROWNING FIGURES
23rd December 2015 - QUEENSLAND MULTICULTURAL SURF SAFETY REMINDER IN LEAD-UP TO CHRISTMAS
7th September 2015 - QUEENSLAND NIPPERS PROGRAM OPEN FOR CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES
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