Seventeen people drown between Christmas Day and January 2

Published 4 January 2023 

The deadly Christmas drowning week claimed 17 lives in Australia this year, more than half the total for the entire summer so far, with media reports of drowning deaths captured and reported in Royal Life Saving Society – Australia’s Summer Drowning Toll.

From the start of the Summer Drowning Toll on 1 December 2022 to now, 26 people in Australia have lost their lives to drowning. Tragically children 0 to 17 accounted for the highest number of drowning deaths, followed by those aged 34 – 64 years.

Royal Life Saving Chief Executive Officer Justin Scarr said it was crucial that people prioritised water safety while they’re relaxing over the summer break.

“Parents and caregivers are urged to actively supervise children at all times if you are near water, whether swimming in a backyard pool, or at a dam, river, beach or lake,” Mr Scarr said.

“For children under five this means keeping them within arm’s reach at all times.

“We need to ensure people always take water safety seriously. Unfortunately, people of all ages have drowned this summer, while at rivers, lakes, beaches and swimming pools.

“Choosing a safe location to swim, where lifeguards are on duty is essential. Rivers, lakes, and unpatrolled beaches can be incredibly dangerous, especially for people who have fallen out of practice swimming, or never learned to swim.”

Men continue to be over-represented in the drowning toll, with males making up more than 80 per cent of drowning deaths this summer. Research shows that males may over-estimate their skills and ability around water and underestimate the risk of drowning, especially when alcohol is involved. Alcohol can increase risk-taking behaviour and impair judgement and coordination.

Unfortunately, some of those who drowned were alone when they have gotten into difficulty, without someone to help or raise the alarm.

“We’re asking everyone to avoid alcohol around water and don’t go alone. Make the right call around water and look after your mates,” Mr Scarr said.

So far this summer, people have most likely drowned when swimming and recreating, and when using boats and watercraft at rivers, lakes and beaches. Some of those who drowned when boating or using other watercraft were not wearing a lifejacket at the time of the incident.

“Many rivers, lakes and dams have more water flowing through than in previous years with water moving downstream, especially after flooding. It’s important not to let children play or swim in floodwater. If heading out on a boat, kayak and canoe, we urge everyone to wear a lifejacket,” Mr Scarr said.

Royal Life Saving wants everyone to enjoy the water safely, but to prepare and brush up on safety precautions, especially in unfamiliar locations.

These are our top five tips to enjoy the water safely this summer:

  • Always supervise children around water
  • Avoid alcohol around water
  • Wear a lifejacket when boating and fishing
  • Know the conditions
  • Avoid going alone

Royal Life Saving Summer Drowning Toll

Royal Life Saving’s Summer Drowning Toll is updated regularly over the summer (1 Dec 2022 to 28 Feb 2023). The website includes an analysis of fatal drowning, including a comparison of ‘this time’ last summer, as well as location and activity information. The website can be found at

Royal Life Saving Society – Australia’s research, education and advocacy work in drowning prevention and water safety is supported by the Australian Government.

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Royal Life Saving Water Safety Enjoy the Water Safely