There is a Drowning Epidemic in Australia and it’s Time to Make it Stop

With the death toll now almost as high as car fatalities, the YMCA is calling for mandatory lessons for children

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Drowning Epidemic
  • the alarming number of drownings across Australia has reached 30
  • alcohol might be a major contributing factor for water-related deaths during the holiday season
  • the YMCA has called for government-subsidised mandatory swimming lessons for children

Another festive season has gone by and just like almost every year, the number of drownings across Australia has gone up. This time around, however, the death toll for the season is unusually high this.

With water-related fatalities standing at 30 as of January 1st, Royal Life Saving Society chief executive, Justin Scarr, said the number was almost four times what they would usually expect over the festive period.

Numbers have been increasing rapidly and the age range of the victims is wide enough to include toddlers and seniors. On Monday night, former senior judge Richard Gee was found unconscious in a pool in northern Sydney, while on Sunday night a two-year-old girl was found dead in the same circumstances in an area south-west of Sydney.

Surf Life Saving NSW spokesman, Liam Howitt, said there are a variety of factors that should be considered as contributors for the drowning epidemic.

“That spike is not just in the surf, but in backyard pools, and inland rivers and lakes […] Obviously it’s the festive season, as well, so people do things like having a drink to celebrate during that time, and that can potentially cause people to make bad decisions around the water.”

Mr Scarr made a similar statement, mentioning alcohol as a potential cause for the alarming number of inland water drownings.

“Traditionally alcohol is involved in drownings in inland waterways, it’s too early to tell if that was a factor in any of these cases, but we urge people to minimise their alcohol consumption.”

Meanwhile, the YMCA has called for national mandatory and government-subsidised swimming lessons for youngsters. Lisa Hart, chief officer of YMCA NSW, released a statement saying the increasing number of drownings happening yearly over the holiday season should be cause for concern for the federal government.

It is believed that three out of five children nationally leave primary school without basic swimming skills — an unsettling statistic if considering that the chances of any Australian living near a body of water are rather high.

“Just as we teach children to walk, talk, to learn their ABCs and basic maths, we need to educate them about water and its dangers, from backyard pool risks through to how to avoid rips in the ocean,” said Hart.

“This could begin as early as daycare, with accredited agencies being funded to provide children aged one to four with specialty education about water familiarisation and general water safety – including teaching toddlers how to ‘swim to the side to stay alive’”.

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Carla is a twenty-something year-old photographer and writer that recently moved to Melbourne and has never felt more at home. She has lived in 7 countries, traveled to over 30 and has filled one entire passport with stamps. She has diagnosed herself with chronic travel addiction. Whenever her head isn’t busy thinking of the next escape, you will most likely find Carla either watching TV series or updating her Instagram feed. Her interests are ever growing and they include world news, science, fashion, donuts and sudoku puzzles. She also has a degree in Psychology and has been deemed to be a good listener. Whether she enjoys that or not is a different story.