Release of the Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report 2015
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 1 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. Over 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. 27% (over 1 in 4) 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 The Hon. Sussan Ley MP, Federal Minister for Health and Minister for Sport at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday 15th September.
Royal Life Saving Society – Australia CEO, Justin Scarr says “Each and every case in this report represents a very personal story that will have caused great sorrow for families, friends and communities.”
Justin Scarr says “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.”
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).
Royal Life Saving CEO Justin Scarr says “The high number of people drowning in rivers, lakes and dams continues 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” Justin Scarr CEO Royal Life Saving says.
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.
Royal Life Saving CEO Justin Scarr says “Zero known fatalities in children aged 10 to 17 years this year is pleasing but Royal Life Saving urges 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.”
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.
Over 1 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. 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
A range of spokespeople are available to speak to this release including Justin Scarr, CEO & Amy Peden, National Manager – Research & Policy (author of the report).
Media enquiries to Media Key on 03 9769 6488
Key Drowning Facts at a Glance
• 271 people drowned in Australian waterways between 1 July 2014 and 30 June 2015
• This is an increase of 5 deaths (or 2%) on the 266 deaths recorded in 2013/14
• This is a reduction of 6% on the 10 year average of 288 drowning deaths
• 80% of all drowning deaths were male
• 10% (26 deaths) of all drowning deaths occurred in children aged 0-4 years
• 9 (3%) drowning deaths occurred in children aged 5 to 14 years
• 23 (9%) drowning deaths occurred in children aged 15-24 years
• 89 (33%) drowning deaths occurred in people aged 55 years and over
• 99 drowning deaths (37%) occurred in inland waterways (rivers, creeks, streams, lakes, dams and lagoons)
• 55 (20%) drowning deaths occurred at beaches
• 36 (13%) drowning deaths occurred at ocean / harbour locations
• 63 people (23%) were swimming and recreating immediately prior to drowning
• 53 people (20%) drowned as a result of accidents involving watercraft
• 43 people (16%) drowned as a result of falls into water
State and Territory Breakdown
• 100 (37%) drowning deaths occurred in New South Wales
• 62 (23%) drowning deaths occurred in Queensland
• 39 (14%) drowning deaths occurred in Victoria
• 39 (14%) drowning deaths occurred in Western Australia
• 17 (6%) drowning deaths occurred in South Australia
• 9 (3%) drowning deaths occurred in Tasmania
• 4 (1%) drowning deaths occurred in the Northern Territory (NT)
• 1 drowning death in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT)