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Royal Life Saving’s latest Keep Watch campaign highlights tragic drowning toll among children aged under 12 months

Royal Life Saving’s latest Keep Watch campaign highlights tragic drowning toll among children aged under 12 months
November 23, 2020

Newly released data from Royal Life Saving Society - Australia has revealed 41% of drowning deaths among children under the five in Australia happen toddlers aged under 12 months.

Released as Royal Life Saving launches its new Keep Watch Campaign, the alarming research reveals that, over the past 18 years, 507 children aged 0 to 4 have drowned - of these 207 (41%) were children aged 1 year or below.

Royal Life Saving says the risk of drowning triples as soon as a child starts to crawl, peaking shortly after a child’s first birthday.

Royal Life Saving is also highlighting that sadly for every fatal drowning in this age group, there are a further eight children admitted to hospital following a non-fatal drowning some of whom will sustain lifelong brain injuries as a result.

The Survey shows that the majority of deaths in children aged under four occurred in backyard swimming pools (53%) and during the summer months (39%). Accidental falls into water was the leading activity prior to drowning in this age group, accounting for a huge 78% of all deaths. Almost all of these deaths were due to a lack of active adult supervision.

With the Keep Watch Campaign reminding parents and carers about the risks of child drowning, Royal Life Saving Chief Executive, Justin Scarr explained “the risk of drowning triples as soon as a child starts to crawl, peaking shortly after a child’s first birthday, just as they start to become more mobile. At this age, they are curious and unpredictable. It is vital you keep constant watch. We are reminding parents that ‘Kids can’t help themselves around water, you need to.

“Drowning deaths in young children are wholly preventable and have a huge impact on a family. We also know that children who survive a drowning incident often experience lifelong health issues, which in some cases, may lead to premature death. The emotional toll this has on children, their parents and carers is terribly sad.

“Royal Life Saving is asking all parents to Supervise, Restrict, Teach and Respond. Active adult supervision prevents child drowning. Any distraction is dangerous and puts young children at risk around water. Whether it is a phone or social media use, or carrying out everyday tasks, such as leaving a child unsupervised momentarily to cook, take the rubbish out or collect the washing, no task is worth your child’s life.

“We ask parents and carers to always Keep Watch. It is also essential that people have well maintained pool fences and pool gates that are checked regularly to make sure they are not faulty and never prop them open.”

While drowning deaths in children aged under five have decreased by 74% since 2002, Scarr notes that drowning remains one of the leading causes of accidental death in this age group.

He adds “Royal Life Saving’s Keep Watch campaign has made significant inroads in helping to reduce drowning in young children since it was launched nearly 30 years ago, but we know that implementing simple safety measures and changing pool safety behaviours can realise our vision of zero child drowning deaths.”

For more information about Royal Life Saving’s Keep Watch campaign, visit

Images courtesy of Royal Life Saving.

Related Articles

21st October 2020 - Blacktown City Council launches Drowning Prevention Strategy

30th September 2020 - CQU researcher seeks input with study into drowning prevention strategies

23rd September 2020 - Paul Sadler Swimland concerned that limited access to swimming lessons increases drowning risks for children

18th September 2020 - Royal Life Saving and Surf Life Saving Australia report males account for 80% of all drowning deaths

30th July 2020 - New research has potential to reduce risk of drownings at Australian aquatic facilities

14th July 2020 - ‘Culturally Competent’ aquatic centres look to reduce drownings among diverse communities

19th March 2020 - Drownings fall across Australian summer of extremes

6th October 2020 - Royal Life Saving concerned over significant fall in swimming lesson enrolments

25th August 2020 - Royal Life Saving introduces new conflict management course for the aquatic industry

11th August 2020 - Royal Life Saving publishes new National Swimming and Water Safety Framework for learn to swim programs

12th June 2020 - Royal Life Saving responds to questions on resuscitation during Coronavirus pandemic

1st May 2020 - Royal Life Saving makes the case for the reopening of Australia’s aquatic centres and swim schools

3rd April 2020 - Royal Life Saving welcomes JobKeeper payments as a ‘$700 million lifeline’ for aquatic facilities and swim schools

12th October 2018 - Life Saving Victoria’s Watch Around Water urges parents to put their down phones when at the pool

16th December 2016 - Watch Around Water gets season launch

26th October 2018 - Keep Watch research shows alarming scale of toddler drowning

2nd November 2017 - 85% of Queensland aquatic facilities work with Keep Watch anti drowning program

7th December 2016 - Keep Watch program marks 20 years and an 85% reduction in Western Australia’s toddler drowning rate

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