MEDIA RELEASE: Toddler drowning tragedy - more than 500 young Australians die


9th November 2021

Royal Life Saving Keep Watch Program

More than 500 children aged 0 to 4 years died from drowning in Australia in the past 19 years, new research released today by Royal Life Saving has found. Of the 532 children who died, 40% were just one-year old.

Royal Life Saving says the risk of drowning triples as soon as a child starts to crawl, peaking shortly after a child’s first birthday.

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 sustain lifelong brain injuries.

Swimming pools were the leading location for drowning among children, accounting for more than half of all deaths (52%). Accidental falls into water were the leading activity prior to drowning (77%). In almost all of these deaths, the child was not being supervised by an adult when they entered the water.

Drowning among children most commonly happens in summer (38%) which is why Royal Life Saving is urging parents and carers to always ‘Keep Watch’ around the water this summer. Drowning in children is quick and silent but it can be prevented.

Justin Scarr, CEO at Royal Life Saving Society – Australia, said the Keep Watch Campaign recommends four simple safety tips to prevent child drowning; Supervise, Restrict, Teach and Respond.

“We know that the risk of drowning triples once a child turns one and they become more mobile,” Mr Scarr said.

“Children are curious about their surroundings, which means parents and carers cannot afford to be complacent around the water. We are reminding parents that ‘Kids can’t help themselves around water, you need to’.

“Children who suffer a non-fatal drowning may experience long-term health complications or life-changing injuries. This is devastating for families.”
Child drowning can be prevented by ensuring children are always supervised around the water by an adult.

“This year has been challenging for parents, in many cases families have tried to juggle working and schooling from home. We are worried this could lead to distractions and lapses in adult supervision,” Mr Scarr said.

Royal Life Saving highlights everyday distractions such as answering the front door, checking an email or putting the washing on can prove disastrous for young children. When supervising children around the water, always make sure your full attention is dedicated to the task. Remember, kids can’t help themselves around water, you need to. Keep Watch.

“We urge parents and carers to Keep Watch this summer. Check your pool fence and gate to make sure they are in working order.

“If supervision fails, a functioning pool fence and gate is the next line of defence working to keep your child safe from drowning,” he said.

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.

For media enquiries, please contact Media Key on 0409 420 112 or 03 9769 6488. Images and Broll can be found at