Published 1 February 2024
End of the summer holiday period marks 72 tragedies in waterways nationwide
Royal Life Saving projects Summer 2023/24 will be one of the worst summers for drowning with over 100 fatalities possible before the end of February. Royal Life Saving is urging people not to be complacent just because the holidays are over.
As of the end of January 2024, the Royal Life Saving Summer Drowning Toll records 72 people have drowned across Australia since 1 December, up 24% from the same time last summer and 4% on the 5-year average.
This follows the deadly Christmas holiday period, where a total of 25 drowning deaths were recorded between 24th December and 2nd January (inclusive).
The highest number of drowning deaths have occurred New South Wales (24, up by 14%), Victoria (19, up by 27%) and Queensland (16, up by 60%), each recording increases in drowning deaths compared to the same time last year.
Those aged 45-54 years make up 22% of all summer drowning deaths. Thirteen children (≤17 years) have drowned this summer, up 30% from the same time last year. Drowning deaths have occurred at all locations, including in the home environment.
Royal Life Saving Chief Executive Officer Justin Scarr said, “The 2023/24 summer holiday season has been a tragic period for drowning with 72 confirmed drowning deaths as of 31st January. If the current trend continues, and with 4 weeks to go, we forecast the summer drowning toll could exceed 100 drowning deaths by the end of February”.
Royal Life Saving is again warning people to stay vigilant around water and emphasises that drowning can happen when least expected, even to people who are strong swimmers.
“Whether you are splashing in a lake, paddling on a river, or relaxing around a swimming pool, please make safe decisions to help you and your loved ones to stay safe around water” says Mr Scarr.
“Be aware of your limitations. Every year we see far too many people overestimate their skills and underestimate the risks around water which can lead to a drowning incident. If you are unsure about your ability in the water, we encourage you to visit your local aquatic centre to test your skills before going into open water.
Shocked and saddened by drowning events over summer, Royal Life Saving is reinforcing the importance of long-term investments in children’s swimming and water safety skills, community access to safe places to swim, including at community swimming pools.
“Summer has again highlighted that children who miss out on lessons, become teenagers and adults at increased risk of drowning. Tragic drowning events in rivers, lakes and at unpatrolled beaches should remind us how important swimming lessons and the local pool are to safety and community well-being,” Mr Scarr said.
To stay safe around the water, make sure to:
- 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 dashboard is updated daily over the summer (1 Dec 2023 to 29 Feb 2024). This allows users to view timeline comparisons and several data variables by state.
Royal Life Saving Interim Summer Drowning Report
Royal Life Saving has produced a short report tracking the 2023/24 Summer Drowning Toll as of 31 January 2024. The report includes comparisons to previous years, and a projection of this summer's final drowning number based on data trends from December and January of this Summer.