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Drownings highlight water danger as Australia heads into a long weekend

Four dead in horror Victorian beach tragedy

Off the back of multiple tragic drownings, there are serious fears for Aussie lives as the country heads into the Australia Day long weekend.

Four people died after being pulled from the water at an unpatrolled Victorian beach this week, bringing this summer’s national drowning toll to 67.

This is a 17 per cent increase on the same period last year, Royal Life Saving Society Australia CEO Justin Scarr said.

The figure could jump even higher this weekend, as drownings tend to double on public holidays – and occur even more on public holiday long weekends.

“That risk is right across the board, from beaches, to rivers, to lakes and also backyard swimming pools,” Scarr said.

“Alcohol is a significant factor in drowning on public holidays. It does two things; No.1, it encourages men to take unnecessary risks, overestimating their ability, and underestimating the dangers of things like currents, rips and steep dropoffs.

“The second thing [alcohol] does is that, unfortunately, we see a number of children left unsupervised around water.”

Males make up 84 per cent of all summer drowning deaths, with those aged between 18 and 64 years most at risk. More than one-quarter (27 per cent) have occurred in rivers, creeks, lakes and dams.

Water and children can also be a deadly mix; the Royal Life Saving Society’s 2023 National Drowning Report found 16 children aged four and under died in Australia between 2022 and 2023.

And for every drowned child, there could be up to eight who survived but with poor health outcomes, Kids Alive operations director Emma Lawrence previously told The New Daily.

Scarr said one of the recurring themes of drownings in recent years is that Australians – adults and children – lack the swimming skills to save themselves in all bodies of water, not just beaches.

“This has been a slow decline,” he said.

“Our children are learning younger and younger, which means they’re finishing well before they learn valuable swimming and life-saving skills commonly taught in high schools.

“And as that flows through into young adults, people are getting themselves into trouble when they’re swimming in unsupervised locations, like unpatrolled beaches and inland waterways.”

To keep you and your loved ones as safe as possible around water this long weekend, you should keep an eye on children, avoid swimming without lifeguards present, and hold off on any alcohol until you’re done swimming for the day.

“Most men understand that in a group, there’s always one or two that take unnecessary risks and do the wrong thing,” Scarr said.

“And so that’s why Royal Life Saving is emphasising men make the right call, pull your mates into line and keep them safe around water this holiday weekend.”

“We’re not against fun, but please leave it to the end of the day after the boating and fishing.”

Topics: Drownings
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