The Turnbull Government is today launching Surf Life Saving Australia’s 2017 National Coastal Safety Report – which found that 116 people died from drowning around the Australian coastline in 2016-17.
While this was down from the previous year, it was 10.5 per cent higher than 2014-15.
It’s a timely reminder for swimmers of all abilities to still be cautious when undertaking any water activities this summer.
One death is too many and the number of Australians and visitors who die from drowning each year is simply not acceptable.
Only 28 per cent of people who drowned were swimming or wading at the beach. This figure could have been much higher, as life savers rescued almost 11,000 people at beaches with flags and patrols last year.
Other activities in the surf or sea claimed the most lives – boating, jet skiing, snorkelling, rock fishing, and scuba diving, which cannot be supervised by lifesavers.
People need to be more diligent with simple safety precautions such as swimming at a patrolled beach between the red and yellow flags, and wearing a lifejacket while boating, rock fishing or paddling.
This applies to men in particular, who represented 83 per cent of people who drowned in coastal waters nationally and 90 per cent of those who drowned were in New South Wales.
This year, the Turnbull Government will provide more than $15 million for ongoing water safety activities by organisations including Surf Life Saving Australia, Royal Life Saving Society Australia, AUSTSWIM and Laurie Lawrence Swimming Enterprises.
These activities include awareness raising and education, policy advice, surf lifesaving activities, surf patrols, swimming lessons, swim teachers’ training and education and new rescue technologies.
Have a swim at the beach or pool is a great Aussie tradition but we need to take care.
That’s why earlier this year, I asked for a review of the Australian Water Safety Sector to see if we could do more to keep people safe in the water.
I have now received that review, and it’s confirmed that the overall direction of the Australian Water Safety Strategy is sound.
The review recommended multiyear agreements and that we consolidate the programs, reducing the administrative burden. We support the recommendations and will be now looking to implement them.
If you are heading to the water this summer, for swimming, fishing or any other activity, please know your own ability. Listen to your local surf life saver and heed warnings, take care and be safe.