MEDIA RELEASE: Tragic Summer As Ninety Drown

Published 3 March 2023

Royal Life Saving Summer Drowning Report

Every day one person died from drowning across summer, with a surge of deaths during the heat wave in February and a tragic Christmas – New Year holiday week pushing numbers up, the Royal Life Saving Summer Drowning Toll has revealed.

Last year flood-related drowning deaths caused a spike in deaths in February, but this year’s February death toll was even higher – with 31 deaths – despite there not being large-scale flooding in urban areas in 2023.

In total, 90 people lost their lives in Australian waterways and swimming pools between 1 December 2022 and 28 February 2023.

Tragically, 10 per cent of all drowning deaths this year were rescues gone wrong.

Royal Life Saving Society – Australia Chief Executive Officer Justin Scarr said the trends this year were deeply concerning.

“Last year was the worst year on record for summer drowning and we had hoped there would be a significant drop given there was fewer intense flood events this year, but drowning numbers are still too high,” Mr Scarr said.

“It’s supposed to be the happiest time of year, but between Christmas Day and January 2, when people gathered together across Australia 22 people drowned. That’s 22 families, friends and communities whose summer became a period of mourning.

“The heatwave in February also caused a spike in drowning, with 17 per cent of all drowning deaths over summer attributable to that six-day period.

“So many communities were affected by drowning this year, with significant increases in drowning in all states except for Queensland and Tasmania.

“Royal Life Saving continues to promote the need for local drowning prevention and water safety plans, targeting known drowning blackspots.

“We know that this is the tip of the iceberg. Many more non-fatal drowning incidents are likely to have occurred that aren’t recorded in publicly accessible data and so remain invisible.

“We need to get more people in our community getting back into their local pools brushing up on their skills, doing their Bronze Medallion if they’re planning to be at unpatrolled locations including rivers and lakes, and getting their children into learn to swim classes.”

These are our top five tips to enjoy the water safely:
  • 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 Society – Australia’s research, education and advocacy work in drowning prevention and water safety is supported by the Australian Government.

Download a copy of the Royal Life Saving Summer Drowning Report 2022/23

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

Note for Editors

Note that these are interim numbers, based on what it reported in the media only. We know that around 30 per cent of all drowning deaths go unreported, especially those that occur in the home environment and among older people. Numbers will change with coronial investigations and the official number of summer drowning deaths will be reported in the 2023 National Drowning Report released in September.

Contact: Media Key on 0409 420 112 or 03 9769 6488.