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Surf Life Saving Australia reveals summer with 99 drowning deaths and more than 5,000 lives saved

Surf Life Saving Australia reveals summer with 99 drowning deaths and more than 5,000 lives saved
March 1, 2024

A report on drownings through summer released by Surf Life Saving Australia has shown that as of the evening of 29th February there have been 99 drowning deaths this summer across the country with more than half occurring on the coast.

Along with the death toll, the SLSA 2023-23 Summer Coastal Drowning Report highlights the role of volunteer surf lifesavers across the country with more than 5,700 rescues, 25,000 first aid treatments and 1.3 million preventative actions taken by surf lifesavers and lifeguards patrolling beaches across the country.

The report acknowledges the more than 1.4 million hours volunteered by surf lifesavers on patrol every year, their actions are estimated to have contributed $1.6 billion economic value to the Australian community during the 2023/24 summer alone.

While the efforts of surf lifesavers are incredible, the 99 drowning deaths were recorded around the country with 55 lives lost on the coast (56%). Three in four occurred at a beach with rip currents - again the number one coastal hazard accounting for 29% of drowning deaths.

84% of coastal drowning deaths were male, and regional and remote drowning deaths accounted for 60% of fatal coastal drowning, which is 9% above last year.

Commenting on the findings, Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) Chief Executive, Adam Weir stated “beaches around the country are busiest during Summer, with our surf lifesavers and lifeguards increasing their hours and services across Christmas, New Years, Australia Day as well as school holidays periods to meet the demand.

“Volunteer surf lifesavers also save more lives over Summer than any other time of the year.

“Surf Life Saving Australia is grateful to all surf lifesavers and lifeguards who collectively have performed 5,176 rescues and 1,363,588 preventative actions, returning so many loved ones to their family and friends.

“Sadly 55 lives were lost across our coastline this summer with men again representing more than four in every five drowning deaths that occurred. This summer, 60% of coastal drowning deaths occurred in regional and remote locations, many at unpatrolled beaches."

Noting that every life lost is one too many and that SLSA is committed to its community education efforts but is also looking at new technologies that can further support front line services, Weir explained “Surf Life Saving Australia is committed to working with our states to invest in technology that is tailored to the different regions across Australia and can help us target those ‘black spot’ regions where people are visiting but are currently unpatrolled.

“We have already seen the impact technology is having on our services with the introduction of drones, emergency response beacons and surveillance systems in some States. But we want to be doing more and will be working with our stakeholders to do so.

“With rip currents continuing to be the number one hazard around coastal drowning, Surf Life Saving Australia together with UNSW Sydney are investing in technology to develop a rip current detection smartphone tool using AI - the ‘Rip Eye’. It’s just one of many technological advancements Surf Life Saving is investing in across Australia.

“Public education remains the key and we need to make sure we are continuing to reach as many people, from as many communities and backgrounds, around the importance of coastal safety.

“Our primary message is to swim at the patrolled beach, between the red and yellow flags. But with Australia’s vast coastline, we are always looking at ways to expand our volunteer and lifeguard services.”

With summer coming to an end, Weir said surf lifesavers and lifeguards will continue working to keep Australia’s beaches safe.

He added “while this brings to a close a busy summer, our surf lifesavers and lifeguards will remain on the beach for the next few months, including an anticipated busy Easter holiday period.

“SLSA and surf lifesavers are urging all Australians to keep water safety top of mind when visiting our beaches, understand your limitations and swim between the red and yellow flags.”

Click here to view the SLSA 2023-23 Summer Coastal Drowning Report.

Images courtesy of Surf Life Saving Australia.

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8th December 2023 - Global drowning prevention initiatives showcased at Perth Conference

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15th September 2023 - Latest National Drowning report reveals rise of deaths among older men

25th July 2023 - Landmarks Go Blue to mark World Drowning Prevention Day

20th July 2023 - SWIM Australia and AUSTSWIM join forces to reduce drowning rate

27th June 2023 - Surf Life Saving Australia introduces carbon emission reduction program for clubs

3rd June 2023 - World Aquatics welcomes WHA resolution on drowning prevention

16th April 2023 - Surf Life Saving NSW urges water safety vigilance following drownings on Easter Sunday

23rd March 2023 - Australian Surf Life Saving Championships returns to Western Australia

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