Australian Drowning Statistics

Australia boasts a temperate climate in most areas almost all year round. It is this beautiful weather that acts as a big draw card for tourists to make this great country their holiday destination, and also why some people are drawn to relocate here.

Unfortunately, Australia also has a high number of drowning deaths each year. The mild weather in winter and the steaming heat in summer means locals and tourists alike are flocking to the beaches, the waterways and the backyard swimming pools.

Although the government is always working on initiatives to prevent these drownings each year, such as the mandatory garden fencing around any private swimming pool, the death toll continues to rise.

Year on year, for the past three years, drowning deaths have increased. While the 2011 figures include the victims of the Queensland floods, it didn’t include the SIEV 221 boat crash off Christmas Island, as the coronial investigations are still ongoing.

Why are these numbers increasing and where are they happening?

With more and more people partaking in water activities, heading to the beach on hot days and having backyard BBQ’s by the pool, there is more and more chance of exposure to water and therefore drowning. In fact, the highest risk locations for drowning are rivers, beaches and home swimming pools. Around 6% of the deaths were from international visitors who may not be as aware of water safety if they do not have much access to swimming at home. It is always advised that any visitor to Australia should only swim with buddies and definitely never swim when they are intoxicated.

Of the 37 swimming pool deaths, the most common age group was the 0-14 year olds. Mostly, this happened because of a fall. This again promotes the importance of having a fence around any backyard pool, to deter children from getting close to it.

Out of the drowning deaths in a swimming pool, the activity that was taking place just before the death was ‘unknown’ in 14% of the cases. This means those people were alone or unsupervised at the time.

Unfortunately sometimes children will work out a way over the fence without you knowing, and sometimes neighbourhood kids may come into your yard to use your pool when you aren’t there.

You may possibly need to look into erecting a larger fence around your entire yard. Something sturdy, strong and hard to climb over, like colorbond fencing.

Although the most common place for a child 0-4 to drown is still a private swimming pool, the good news is this number is declining. Pool fences, swimming lessons and the Royal Life Saving Keep Watch program are starting to make an impact on this demographic.

And even though one death is too many, the numbers are at least moving in the right direction.

Royal Life Saving launched the ‘Keep Watch’ education program 15 years ago that is still helping teach water safety to parents today. This program promotes four Keep Watch actions:

  • Supervise Your Child – Always be within arms reach of them.
  • Restrict Access to Water – Have barriers to water locations.
  • Be Water Aware – Introduce your child to water through classes; discuss hazards and put rules in place at aquatic locations.
  • Learn Resuscitation – A rapid response is the best response in an emergency.

Aside from looking after children, when you are at the beach or partaking in any water activities, you should always keep an eye out for your mates. The age group with the highest number of drowning deaths over the past year is the age group 25-34. The 45-54 and 55-64 age groups closely follow this. So even if you are with people who are usually aware of water safety, it is important to keep watch of your friends and family in case of emergency.


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