More than 500 children lose their lives to drowning over the past 20 years

Media Release - 8 November 2022

Royal Life Saving Keep Watch

Over the last 20 years, 549 children aged 0-4 years have died from drowning in Australia, new analysis released by Royal Life Saving Society – Australia today has found. Of these, 40 per cent were aged just one year old.

For every fatal drowning in this age group, eight children are admitted to hospital following a non-fatal drowning. On average, these children stay in hospital for 1.5 days. Some will sustain lifelong brain injuries, impacting families and communities.

Royal Life Saving Chief Executive Officer, Justin Scarr said drowning risk for young children peaks in summer, with 38 per cent of all deaths occurring between December and February.

“As we head into warmer weather, we are urging parents and carers to always ‘Keep Watch’ around the water” Mr Scarr said.

“Royal Life Saving research shows the risk of drowning triples following a child’s first birthday. Parents need to be aware of this heightened risk and stay vigilant.

“We are reminding parents that ‘Kids can’t help themselves around water, you need to. Keep Watch’.”

More than half of deaths occurred in swimming pools (51%), making pools the leading location for drowning among young children. Accidental falls into water were the leading activity prior to drowning (77%). In most cases, the child was not being supervised by an adult caregiver.

Drowning in young children is quick and silent. Everyday distractions such as answering the front door, checking on dinner in the oven or answering a text message can divert a caregiver’s attention away from the crucial task of supervision, enabling a child to enter the pool area unaccompanied. Active supervision means giving your full attention and avoiding distractions.

“This is the time of year to check your pool fence and gate” says Mr Scarr.

“If there is a lapse in supervision, a correctly installed and regularly maintained pool barrier can prevent your child from drowning. It’s important that pools gates are not propped open for any reason.”

The Royal Life Saving Keep Watch program promotes four actions to keep children safe around the water; Supervise, Restrict, Teach and Respond. Remember, kids can’t help themselves around water, you need to. Keep Watch.

Notes to the editor

Royal Life Saving Australia’s Keep Watch public awareness and education campaign has been running for more than 25 years. It recommends the following safety tips to keep children safe around water:

  1. Supervise. Actively supervise children around water
  2. Restrict. Restrict children’s access to water
  3. Teach. Teach children water safety skills
  4. Respond. Learn how to respond in the case of an emergency

For more information about Royal Life Saving’s Keep Watch campaign, visit

Keep Watch is supported by the Australian Government.

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