Image: Taken from the Play It Safe By The Water campaign, which through increasing public awareness and education has successfully reduced the number of fatal drownings in Victoria since it began in 1998
The Life Saving Victoria Drowning Report 2017/18 is released today, the first day of Water Safety Week. In the report, 107 drowning incidents in Victoria are recorded from the past year, with 40 of them fatal and 67 non-fatal.
While we are seeing a slow decrease in drownings since the beginning of the Play It Safe By The Water campaign 20 years ago – in fact, fatal drownings have decreased overall by 46% in this time - as Dr Nigel Taylor, CEO of Lifesaving Victoria, states, “every drowning death is one too many.”
Unfortunately, a number of concerning trends persist, and as we head into the warmer months, it is this time of year in particular that we all need to think about how will take water safety seriously over summer, and understand the risks if we don’t.
Your chances of drowning increase if you consume alcohol before swimming or entering water, yet it's a risk too many are still taking. Nine of the fatal drownings in the past year stated that the individual had consumed alcohol prior to drowning. This represents 23% of the total number of drowning deaths in 2017/18.
Please keep this statistic in mind over summer, when pool parties and summer BBQs near the beach or river are in full swing across the state and country. Look out for one another.
CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) communities
Of the 40 drowning deaths in Victoria, 35% were from CALD communities. This only strengthens our resolve to ensure all children and adults, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to learn how to swim and be safe in the water.
Of those who drowned, 86% were living in Australia at the time of death. The populations found to be at the highest risk of drowning were from Taiwan, South Korea and Ireland.
If you know someone from a CALD community who hasn’t learnt how to swim, or isn’t a confident swimmer, encourage them to seek out lessons. It is an important life skill, and one that every person living in Australia should possess if they are physically able.
Males are still overrepresented in drowning statistics, being three times more likely to drown than females. That is, 73% of fatal drownings in the past year were men, and 27% were women. This trend is true for CALD communities too, with 84% of fatal drownings in this community being male.
Please take care of each other this summer, swim between the flags, don’t swim at an unpatrolled beach, never swim alone or after drinking alcohol, and always keep an eye on children when in or around water.