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Swimming lessons a necessity as drowning deaths skyrocket

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Max Davies
Max Davies
Max is a journalist for the North Central Review. He joined the paper as a cadet journalist in 2021 and graduated from La Trobe University in 2023. He takes a keen interest in motorsport and the automotive industry.

Royal Life Saving data predicts this summer will be one of the worst summers for drowning in recent years, with more than 100 fatalities possible before the end of February.

As of January 30, 72 people have drowned across Australia since the start of summer – a 24 per cent increase from the same time in 2022-23 and four per cent on the five-year average.

During the Christmas holiday period between December 24 and January 2 there were 25 drowning deaths.

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Royal Life Saving chief executive Justin Scarr said the summer holiday season had been a ‘tragic period’.

“Whether you are splashing in a lake, paddling on a river, or relaxing around a swimming pool, please make safe decisions to help you and your loved ones to stay safe around water,” he said.

Ffity eight of the 72 deaths were people aged 20 years or older, with men four times more likely to drown than women – a statistic that has not changed for many years.

Twenty seven drownings for 2023-24 have so far occurred at the beach, a significant jump from the next most dangerous location of rivers and creeks where 18 people have drowned.

“Be aware of your limitations. Every year we see far too many people overestimate their skills and underestimate the risks around water, which can lead to a drowning incident,” Mr Scarr said.

“If you are unsure about your ability in the water, we encourage you to visit your local aquatic centre to test your skills before going into open water.”

Teaching water safety

At Kingswim, a national swim school with locations in Epping and Mernda, a free water safety program operates alongside typical swimming lessons aimed at advocating for children to be safe in the water, while also educating other family members beyond the pool.

Program creator Anne Brown said the statistics highlighted the importance of Kingswim’s role in reinforcing water safety and skills.

Kingswim’s water safety program features interactivities to help teach young children. ​

“The stats highlight that there’s absolutely no room for complacency in the industry … it leads me to think that it’s coming down to the choices that people are making,” she said.

“People are choosing to swim in unsupervised or unpatrolled beaches, they’re finding a quiet spot on the beach because it seems really appealing but it’s probably quiet for a reason – it’s potentially not a safe place to swim.

“Obviously we advocate for kids and adults to learn to swim as a priority in the first instance, but we know that depending on their circumstances, not everybody may have the luxury of attending lessons.”

As part of the water safety program, Kingswim has been hosting kindergarten incursions for almost 20 years with interactive activities to share water safety knowledge and practical skills.

Lessons are taught to children through play-based activities including rescue games, as well as a rhyming story and water safety song and dance to help make the information memorable.

“It means that we can get the messaging into the house because the kids take all the information home and they practice it to their parents or their siblings,” Ms Brown said.

“No one wants to be or know someone who’s that statistic … the really sad thing is that in most instances, death by drowning is preventable.

“We have to have ongoing education and that’s a critical step to keeping people safe. If we reach as many people in that space as we could, I think we’d be a lot safer around the water.”

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