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Surf Life Saving Australia warns drowning deaths more likely on public holidays

Surf Life Saving Australia warns drowning deaths more likely on public holidays
January 25, 2021

Ahead of Australia Day, Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) are urging all beachgoers to swim safely at patrolled beaches highlighting that recent statistics show drowning deaths to be 2.4 times more likely to occur on public holidays.

New research has shown that young men are particularly at risk of drowning on a public holiday, with SLSA General Manager Coastal Safety, Shane Daw, warning in particular about the dangers of alcohol.

“We know on public holidays people like to be in and around water with family and friends, and that these celebrations often include alcohol.  But the simple fact is alcohol does not mix well when you’re swimming, boating or fishing.”

Daw also notes that large surf and water-goers' failure to take enough care were behind the rise in recent drownings and told ABC "there's a bit of complacency about understanding where we're going and people not taking safety precautions about swimming between the flags, or not wearing life jacket and putting themselves in risky situations.

Seven people have recently died in Victorian waterways in the past 10 days alone, while several others have drowned in NSW including a 20-year-old man off Coffs Harbour and three men who were swept into the sea off rocks at Port Kembla’s Hill 60.

The multiple deaths in the past week have contributed to a spike in drownings in recent months with Victoria reporting a record number of drownings from July to December 2020. By mid-December there had been 27 deaths - 11 more than the state's 10-year average.

The drownings this summer have not been isolated to the coastline with pools, creeks and waterholes also claiming lives.

In mid- December 2020, a father and his 11-year-old daughter drowned at a popular swimming spot in the Murrumbidgee River, near Tharwa, south of Canberra. Police said it appeared the father died attempting to save his daughter.

Early in January, a NSW Police senior constable drowned while attempting to save a Chinese international student who was tipped off her inflatable lilo and pulled into a whirlpool while canyoning in the Blue Mountains. More recenty, in the Hunter region of NSW, a 13-year-old girl drowned at Maitland Aquatic Centre. 

Victoria's Emergency Services Minister, Lisa Neville advises “be prepared, be vigilant, swim between the flags, do not swim alone and do not use alcohol … before you go swimming.”

Victoria's Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp has warned of the dangers of people not being fit enough to go swimming. As reported in the ABC Crisp notes "we know that because of COVID and the lockdown, a lot of children haven't had swimming lessons, a lot of Victorians haven't been able to get out and about…they're generally not as fit as they might have been 12 months ago.”

Crisp warns people to know their limitations before they go swimming.

Daw advises “the BeachSafe APP identifies all the patrolled beaches in Australia and provides essential safety information about these locations so all Australians can enjoy the coast safely this weekend, and for the rest of summer.

“Our volunteer surf lifesavers and lifeguards will be on hand to keep watch over our beaches.  So swim between the red and yellow flags if visiting our beaches, and don’t forget your lifejacket while boating, on watercraft or rock fishing.”

Surf Life Saving Australia is also encouraging the public to at all times stop and check for any dangers or hazards. 

For more information on how to stay safe when visiting the beach this summer, or find your nearest patrolled locations visit or download the BeachSafe APP. 

Related Articles

5th January 2021 - Surf Life Saving drones prove to be successful at keeping swimmers and surfers safe

17th December 2020 - Surf Life Saving Australia highlight the dangers of rip currents along Australia’s coast

10th December 2020 - DHL Express and Surf Life Saving Australia launch online game to raise beach safety awareness

30th November 2020 - Forster Surf Life Saving Club secures $2 million grant for upgrades​

27th November 2020 - Surfing Victoria relaunches Surfers Rescue 24/7 Public Courses under COVIDSafe Plan

16th November 2020 - Surf Life Saving NSW deploys drones to keep Sydney’s northern beaches and parks COVIDSafe

12th November 2020 - Surf Life Saving Australia launches new volunteer recruitment campaign

11th November 2020 - Surfing Victoria formalises partnership with Victorian based Indigenous Youth Organisation

10th November 2020 - Australian surf lifesaver achievements recognised at Surf Life Saving Australia awards

5th November 2020 - Wollongong City Council develops new initiative to deliver Surf Education program

3rd November 2020 - Surfing Victoria announces event rescheduling in line with Victorian Government easing of restrictions

25th September 2020 - Surfing Victoria re-launches Coasting for Teens program with COVIDSafe plan in Regional Victoria

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

5th September 2020 - Surf Life Saving WA prepares for busy beaches with return of helicopter services

1st September 2020 - New report shows Surf Life Saving worth $6.5 billion annually to Australian community

27th July 2020 - Surf Life Saving Clubs across NSW to receive $4 million in development grant funding

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