Beaches claimed the second largest number of deaths (55) in the 2014-15 financial year, according to a new report.
Beaches claimed the second largest number of deaths (55) in the 2014-15 financial year, according to a new report.

271 people drowned in Australian waterways in 2014-15

THE latest Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report for 2015 found that 271 people died as a result of drowning in Australian waterways in the 2014/15 financial year.

This figure represents a 6% reduction on the 10-year average of 288 drowning deaths and an increase of 2% (or five deaths) on the 266 lives lost the previous year.

The 2015 Report reveals an alarming 30% increase in drowning deaths in children aged 0 to 4. Almost one in every 10 drowning deaths in Australia was a child aged 0 to 4.

There were 26 deaths in this age group, compared to 20 in the previous year. More than half (54%) happened in swimming pools.

The largest single increase in drowning last year took place in the 45 to 54 year age group - which saw a 26% jump on the 10 year average.

The 2015 Report shows a third of all drowning deaths (33%) are now people aged 55 and over.

More than one third of drowning deaths occurred in inland waterways, including rivers, creeks, lakes and dams, claimed the lives of 99 people in 2014/15, with more people drowning in these locations, than anywhere else.

About 27% (more than one in four) of all drownings in the past 12 months happened in a river, creek or stream.

The 2015 report, the 21st National Drowning Report to be released by Royal Life Saving Society - Australia, was officially launched by, Federal Minister for Health and Sport Sussan Ley yesterday.

Royal Life Saving Society - Australia CEO, Justin Scarr said each and every case in this report represented a very personal story that will have caused great sorrow for families, friends and communities.

"The large increase in drowning in children under the age of five is alarming. Active adult supervision and restricting access to water, through properly installed and correctly maintained pool fences, are key strategies to reduce these tragic child drowning incidents," he said.

Inland waterways continue to claim the largest number of lives, with 99 drowning deaths recorded in rivers, creeks, lakes and dams in 2014/15.

Beaches claimed the second largest number of deaths (55), followed by Ocean / Harbour locations (36 drowning deaths).

Mr Scarr said the high number of people drowning in rivers, lakes and dams continued to be a concern.

"In response to this issue, Royal Life Saving, with Australian Government support is implementing programs across the nation's top 10 river drowning black spots, including the Murray River, which has again experienced a significant number of drowning deaths over the past year."

The Royal Life Saving Drowning Report for 2015 identifies several emerging trends including an increase in the number of females drowning. Although men drown at a rate that is four times that of women, the number of females drowning, particularly in the 45-54 years age group, has increased for the second year in a row.

The report found an alarming 30% increase in the drowning fatalities in children under the age of five. 

"Supervision is a key factor, and often it is either intermittent or absent altogether. Home swimming pools continue to be the leading location for drowning in young children. This is an alarming sign and we urge people to remember the four key actions of the Keep Watch program; Supervise, Restrict Access to Water, Water Awareness and Resuscitation" Mr Scarr said.

The report recorded no known drowning fatalities in children between the ages of 10 and 17 years, compared to the 10-year average of 12 drowning deaths.

Although positive, Royal Life Saving continues to highlight the importance of learning swimming and water safety skills during the school years.

Mr Scarr said zero known fatalities in children aged 10 to 17 years this year was pleasing but Royal Life Saving urged parents not to underestimate the ongoing drowning risk posed to children.

"Basic swimming and water safety skills and knowledge are vital given the Australian environment, and remain a key factor in preventing drowning throughout adulthood," he said.

Royal Life Saving warns of the increase in drowning risk when combining aquatic activities with the use of alcohol or illicit drugs.

Where alcohol was known to have been consumed prior to drowning, one quarter of those victims recorded a blood alcohol content (BAC) reading that was four times the legal limit (0.2mg/L) or higher.

More than one in 10 people who drowned had alcohol in their blood stream at the time of drowning (38). Just over two-thirds (67%) of the 45 to 54 year olds who had consumed alcohol prior to drowning had a Blood Alcohol Content four times the legal limit or higher. Methamphetamine has also overtaken cannabis as the most common illicit drug being used prior to drowning.

Overall, only one third of all drowning deaths occurred in summer and 41% of all drowning deaths happened between midday and 6.00 p.m.

For more information, a range of drowning prevention resources or to download a copy of the Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report 2015 please visit the Royal Life Saving website www.royallifesaving.com.au



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