Aussie Families Urged To Keep Watch Around Water This Summer

SUMMER. A happy time of year in Australia where we flock to the beach, play in the pool, socialise and celebrate.


But amidst this happiness comes horrific tragedy – More than 1/3 of drowning deaths in Australia occur in Summer between 12noon and 6pm.


In the past 13 days there have been 27 near drownings in NSW alone. Since October 2016, throughout Australia families have tragically lost children, Patricia and Taya Young, aged 3 and 4, who drowned in a Logan backyard pool, 18 month old Australian girl drowned in a Bali Vila pool when visiting with her mother from Perth, and just this Sunday 20 month old girl drowned in her backyard pool in Sydney’s south-west.


A pain no parent wishes to experience but sadly drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children five years and under. Between 1 July 2002 and 30 June 2016, 430 children under the age of five drowned in Australian waterways.


This year,  Royal Life Saving have teamed with TV personality Matt Preston  to try to put a stop to the needless loss of life through backyard pool drowning through their World’s Most Costly campaign to remind parents to keep watch no matter what this summer.


Their campaign highlights how everyday distractions such as checking the oven, answering the doorbell, taking a phone call or simply going to the bathroom, can result in irreversible tragedies. It urges parents and carers to Keep Watch and actively supervise their kids when at home this summer.


“As a parent, it is frightening to hear how many swimming pool fatalities and near deaths are as a result of just a short lapse in supervision. We all need to be reminded to keep watch, no matter what. The cost of even the most innocent distraction can simply be too great,” said Preston.


In addition, Richard Beesley, Director of Kids Aquatic Survival School every child should learn basic aquatic survival skills. “It’s not just about swimming, it’s about survival”.


The industry, government and media remind us:

  • Close your pool gate
  • Actively supervise
  • Learn CPR

Why are children in Australia still drowning?

Richard explained that “It’s an accident. No parent can watch his or her children (if they have more than one), 24 hours a day. Changing a newborn babies nappy, going to the toilet, activities which only take minutes. That’s enough time for a child to drown.”


Drowning deaths are always sudden, unexpected and deeply traumatizing for surviving family members, friends, and witnesses who may have watched, helplessly, as an incident unfolded, or tried to rescue someone. The impact of trauma and grief from these major tragedies alone are profound and far-reaching.


Drownings are preventable.

Most drownings occur when the child had wandered to a body of water, not when they are playing by the pool as this is when parents are watching them as they are aware they are near water. This is also why most children drown fully clothed not with their swimmers on.


Austswim CEO, Jennifer Schembri-Portelli has also distinguished that drowning does not occur due to a lack of swimming skills, but results from a lack of ability to gain and maintain an effective body position for breathing.


Time saves lives and the edge won’t always be within reach to swim to, or the child might be too tired to make it there. Teaching a child to float could give them or emergency services those crucial minutes, which might make a difference.


Adequate survival lessons are the third line of defense after supervision and adequate fencing. However when the first two barriers break down or don’t exist in cases such as overseas holidays where pool gates are not a legal requirement, or where no fencing exists such as camping by rivers and lakes, the only barrier is supervision.


The Royal Life Saving World’s Most Costly campaign has four key drowning prevention Actions. The four actions are required to be used together to maximise child safety.

  1. Supervise
  2. Restrict Access
  3. Water Awareness
  4. Resuscitate

Their program further highlights that the actions should be applied around all bodies of water, lakes, rivers, pools and even bath time.  No child is drownproof regardless of how well they can swim. Children drown without a sound. Pool fences give a false sense of security to families, but a supervised child does not drown.


So this Summer we urge the community  to take part and “Keep Watch” and take a collaborative approach to drowning prevention in children. The more barriers the better to help prevent drowning deaths in children under five years of age in all aquatic locations.


Don’t let your Summer holidays end in a preventable tragedy.

Written in collaboration with: Richard Beesley, Kids Aquatic Survival School

Author: Laurice Klaire

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