Home' Afloat : AFLOAT October 2017 Contents 6 AFLOAT.com.au October 2017
Watercraft-related drowning deaths reduced
The recently issued Royal Life Saving Society Australia 23rd
National Drowning Report (12/09/2017) highlights that boating and
non-powered watercraft-related drowning deaths on inland waterways
in the year to June 2017 were below the 10-year average.
This is set against a slight increase in overall drowning numbers
for the year, which saw 291 fatal drownings across Australia. Of these,
13% were attributed to boating incidents in all waterways and 5% to
watercraft. Adversely, drowning in children under five increased last
year; tragically 29 children aged 0-4 years died in 2016/17, a distressing
32% increase on the previous year. The report also found there were
12 drowning deaths in children aged 5-14 years.
Drowning in school aged-children is the lowest of any age group,
but no less tragic. Though many Australian children swim well, too
many kids can’t swim at all and have limited water safety knowledge.
This is a sobering reminder to always actively supervise children
around water, for people young and old to learn to swim and survive,
and to increase lifejacket use.
The 2017 report is the first to examine the impact of both fatal
and non-fatal drowning. RLSA estimates that there were an additional
685 non-fatal drowning incidents requiring hospitalisation in 2016/17.
Many of these people will require long term medical assistance.
Analysis highlights the risks of swimming in unpatrolled
locations, risk-taking by young men, and the need for water safety
awareness among high risk populations.
The nation’s inland waterways continue to be the leading location
for fatal drowning, accounting for 97 deaths, almost one third of
the total. This included 68 at rivers and creeks, and 29 at lakes and
dams. Followed by beaches (50 deaths), ocean / harbour locations
(46 deaths) and swimming pools (44 deaths).
Drowning of overseas tourists
often captures much media attention.
Last year there were 20 overseas
tourists who drowned, predominately
from European (45%) and Asian (40%)
countries, as well as six international
Reducing drowning in adults continues to pose a challenge to
water safety organisations. The 25-34 year age group accounted for
the highest number of drowning deaths (43 deaths), followed by
people aged 45-54 years (40 deaths). In a result that will surprise
many, 36 people 75 years and over died in drowning incidents last
year, a 38% increase on the ten year average.
Royal Life Saving highlights the importance of safe aquatic
behaviours including lifejacket use, reducing alcohol and drug
consumption, checking weather forecasts and never swimming or
In 2008 the Australian Water Safety Council set an ambitious
goal of reducing drowning by 50% by 2020. Interim analysis shows an
overall 24% reduction in fatal drowning despite significant changes
in the size and makeup of the Australian population.
“ Reducing drowning by 24% is a significant achievement. However,
the most pleasing progress has been in reducing drowning in children
aged 0-14 years by 36%,” said Royal Life Saving CEO Justin Scarr.
Efforts to increase lifejacket wear rates are clearly a considerable
factor in this improvement in fatal outcomes. However, to achieve
RLSA’s aim for a 50% reduction in drowning deaths by 2020, there
is still progress to be made.
h Robin Copeland
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