Be vigilant around waterways: life savers


Royal Life Saving’s CEO Justin Scarr (centre), is pictured here with a swimmer and the federal minister for health and minister for sport, the Hon Peter Dutton MP, launching the Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report 2013. 

Figures show 34 per cent of all fatal drownings last year were in regional Australia and Royal Life Saving warns people in the northern rivers to be vigilant when they are around all waterways.

Inland waterways – mainly found in rural and remote Australia – continue to account for the largest number of drowning deaths. In the past 12 months 99 people drowned in inland waterways. In the past year 291 people have drowned in Australian waterways.

Following the release of the Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report 2013, people across regional Australia are being warned by Royal Life Saving to be very careful when they are in or around water.

The report reveals 34 per cent of all drownings last year were in regional and remote Australia.

Royal Life Saving CEO Justin Scarr says it is critical people on the northern rivers are vigilant when they are around all waterways, not just at the beach.

Inland waterways – many in rural and remote areas of Australia – now account for the largest number of drowning deaths… claiming the lives of 99 Australians in the past 12 months.

In the past year 291 Australians drowned. There has been a ‘steep and disturbing’ increase in drowning in people aged 55 and over, Mr Scarr says, adding, ‘the figures show we can all do much more to prevent tragedies from happening’.

The new National Drowning Report 2013 has just been launched by Royal Life Saving. The federal health and sport minister Peter Dutton officially launched it, saying, ‘the message is that we must all help to try to reduce drownings’.

‘The government’s commitment of additional funding to target drowning in inland waterways will save lives,’ Justin Scarr said.

‘Royal Life Saving will work to identify the top ten river drowning locations across Australia and work with communities to reduce drowning.’

A staggering 82 per cent of all drowning deaths are males. Royal Life Saving warns people must stay safe when fishing and boating.

‘Men absolutely must stop and think before taking unnecessary risks when they are swimming, fishing, or boating with their fathers, brothers or mates. We need to see less alcohol, greater use of personal floatation devices and more caution when the weather is changing,’ said Mr Scarr.

The concerning new report also reveals there’s been a 48 per cent increase in the number of children aged 0–4 drowning. Thirty-one young lives were lost last year in pools, dams and bathtubs. Sixty-one per cent of the deaths were in swimming pools. In half the cases children accessed an unfenced pool or got into the pool area by a faulty or propped-open gate. Royal Life Saving says the message ‘Keep Watch’ has never been more relevant.

‘We need pool owners to realise pools can be extremely dangerous to young children. It is not a matter of simply shutting a gate. With a fully compliant pool fence, the type that many state governments have legislated for recently, the gate shuts itself. Self-closing, self-latching, four-sided fencing to isolate the pool and keep kids out is vital and must be regularly maintained.’

Royal Life Saving says a lack of adult supervision is still the number-one issue in child drowning. Falls into water accounted for 81 per cent of all drowning deaths in the under-5 age group. Royal Life Saving says many of the drowning incidents occur when adults are distracted by attending to other children, watching TV, performing daily chores, or they mistakenly think someone else is supervising the child. Royal Life Saving points out child drowning rarely happens during barbecues or parties. The organisation says you have to keep watch at all times to prevent children from drowning.

‘We want to see drowning halved by 2020. There is much to do. Pool owners have to realise pools are extremely dangerous. It is not a matter of simply shutting a gate.’

‘The number of people drowning in inland waterways is very concerning. Many of these deaths happen in regional or remote areas of Australia. These areas are often isolated and a long way from help in an emergency. The high number of inland drowning deaths has prompted an urgent focus on identifying and then acting on inland drowning black spots in communities across the country.’

Royal Life Saving says it’s vital people arm themselves with information about how to prevent drowning – highlighting that all drowning incidents are preventable.

People who want more information on water safety and drowning prevention strategies should visit

To get more information about protecting children when they are near or in water, go to

To find information about saving lives you can also visit


Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report 2013 – Key Findings

291 people drowned in Australian waterways between 1 July 2012 and 30 June 2013

238 (82 per cent) males and 53 (18 per cent) females drowned

31 (11 per cent) drowning deaths occurred in children aged 0–4 years

9 (3 per cent) drowning deaths occurred in children aged 5–14 years

26 (9 per cent) drowning deaths occurred in young people aged 15–24 years

114 (39 per cent) drowning deaths occurred in people aged 55 years and over

99 (34 per cent) drowning deaths occurred in inland waterways

65 (22 per cent) drowning deaths occurred at beaches



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