Royal Life Saving Society Queensland’s national drowning report reveals overall numbers have dropped as concerns turn to summer months.
Royal Life Saving Society Queensland’s national drowning report reveals overall numbers have dropped as concerns turn to summer months.

Lifesavers fear COVID will lead to deadly summer

LIFESAVERS are fearing a deadly summer with concerns over the lack of water safety and swimming lessons because of COVID.

While the total number of drownings across Australia dropped 8 per cent in the past year, Royal Life Saving Society Queensland is urging parents to be extra vigilant leading into the summer months.

RLSSQ national education and training advisor Shayne Baker OAM said the National Drowning Report, released last week, highlighted the importance of safety messaging around all waterways, from beaches to dams, pools and rivers.

Nationwide, 248 people drowned in Australian waterways between July 1, 2019, and June 30 this year, down from what Mr Baker termed a “horror year” in 2018-19 when 276 people drowned.

Queensland figures dropped by two, from 64 to 62 drownings.

“The concern at the moment that we have in drowning prevention is that because of COVID, we have seen less water safety and swimming lessons,” he said.

Royal Life Saving Society Queensland national education and training advisor Shayne Baker OAM.
Royal Life Saving Society Queensland national education and training advisor Shayne Baker OAM.

“Some (lessons and swim schools) have resumed in a limited way now but again the numbers have not returned because obviously people are a little apprehensive.

“We know if we don’t keep providing, continually, that experience and that messaging with it, the risk is we will have kids who don’t have water safety front of mind.

Royal Life Saving Society Queensland National Drowning Report 2020.
Royal Life Saving Society Queensland National Drowning Report 2020.

“That’s an added concern as we go into spring and summer this year.”

Mr Baker said children and adults learning to swim had lost their confidence around the water because COVID restrictions had shut down lessons.

But it was “never too late to learn to swim”.

“Just keep working at it,” he said.

Rivers and creeks were responsible for 21 per cent of all drownings nationwide, followed by the oceans and harbours at 20 per cent, and 18 per cent of drownings at the beach.

Men continued to be over-represented in nationwide figures with 80 per cent of all drowning deaths male.

Royal Life Saving Society Queensland National Drowning Report 2020.
Royal Life Saving Society Queensland National Drowning Report 2020.

Mr Baker said while 36 per cent of all drownings were reported in major cities, regional data showed 60 per cent of all drownings occurred within 100km of their home address.

“That reinforces that people just aren’t taking enough care,” he said.

“People have got to be thinking about where they’re going, whether they have the ability to swim, support around them and to never swim alone.”

Mr Baker said more work was needed to change the mindsets of men in terms of water safety, including the use of life jackets.

“The 24-35 age group is still the highest rating area for both men and women,” he said.

“Overall the male numbers are now up to about 80 per cent across the board and unfortunately there is this habit, as we have already seen in some incidents from boats that they will recover the bodies without life jackets.

Royal Life Saving Society Queensland National Drowning Report 2020.
Royal Life Saving Society Queensland National Drowning Report 2020.

“If people are on boats or rock fishing, they should put (life jackets) on.

“It’s a male ego thing but they’re not going to be swim fit if they’re dressed in clothes and shoes and hit the water.”

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Mr Baker said anyone planning activities in or near the water should be prepared and make sure they had the right equipment including a phone for emergencies.

“One of the positives in quoting drownings statistics is that it reminds the community that most of these things are preventable,” he said.

Royal Life Saving Society Queensland National Drowning Report 2020.
Royal Life Saving Society Queensland National Drowning Report 2020.

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