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47% significant reduction in drowning deaths in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People

Drowning deaths among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. A 10-year analysis 2008/09 to 2017/18
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09/11/2020

New research released today by Royal Life Saving shows a 47% decrease in drowning deaths among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the past 10 years.

The findings highlight significant progress towards the Australian Water Safety Strategy’s goal of reducing drowning in these communities by 50% by the end of 2020.

Stacey Pidgeon, National Manager of Research and Policy at Royal Life Saving, says “The 47% decrease in drowning deaths among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities shows very real progress. This large reduction in drowning was most marked in school-aged children aged 5 to 14 years. However, we know more needs to be done in partnership with Aboriginal communities to build on what has been achieved so far and reduce the drowning toll even further. Royal Life Saving’s vision is for a nation free from drowning.”

The data is published in a Royal Life Saving report, which also highlights the organisation’s work with partners and communities to address drowning in Aboriginal and Torres Strait people through the development of programs specifically tailored for these communities. These programs take a broader health, wellbeing, social and economic approach for people of all ages. Many of these programs aim to create role models and train community members as swimming teachers, lifeguards and pool managers to provide employment and career pathways.

The Talent Pool Program in Western Australia, an innovative training program that provides skills development and employment opportunities for young Aboriginal people within the aquatic industry, is one example of this. Since the program commenced in 2017, 63 people have been supported into first-time employment.

Ms Pidgeon notes “Such programs have had a huge positive impact on communities, particularly in regional and remote locations. Royal Life Saving’s approach is to build partnerships and involve local communities right from the start to develop culturally appropriate programs and resources, which means people are very invested and this has a huge bearing on the success of these programs.”

“NAIDOC Week gives us an opportunity to celebrate these partnerships and successes, so during the course of the week, we’ll be showcasing some of the local programs we have around Australia and the part they play in helping to reduce drowning in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”

Key findings of the report:

  • Males accounted for 75% of all drowning deaths
  • People aged 45-54 years were most at risk of drowning, followed by young children aged 0-4 years
  • 68% occurred in outer regional, remote and very remote locations
  • Rivers were the leading location for drowning among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Download the full report ‘Drowning deaths among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. A 10-year analysis 2008/09 to 2017/18’