IN DECEMBER, 42 people were reported to have drowned in Australian waterways – a figure federal Minister for Sport Senator Bridget McKenzie says is unacceptably high.
She urged all Australians to be more vigilant when swimming in the sea, at pools and especially in rivers and creeks.
“Having just completed my surf life-saving rerefresher course, I cannot reinforce enough the need to respect our waterways and surf conditions,” she said.
“At this time of year when the temperature is high, the desire to cool off by swimming doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t over-look the conditions and take care when entering the water.”
She said there were many hidden dangers people needed to look out for in aquatic environments, a sentiment also highlighted by the Royal Life Saving Society (Australia).
Backing Royal Life Saving’s Respect the River Project, which pays particular attention to the dangers of waterways, Senator McKenzie said,“In particular, and as someone who grew up in the country, we need to take extra care when swimming in rivers and creeks as there are many hidden dangers to look out for.”
Royal Life Saving is reminding all Australians to be safe when swimming and to respect the river to reduce the number of drownings.
Research reveals that 1,087 people have died from drowning in Australian rivers, creeks and streams in the 15 years between July 1, 2003 and 30 June 30, 2018.
A further estimated 522 people were hospitalised for a non-fatal drowning incident, many with a permanent disability.
For more information, head to royallifesaving.com.au/programs/respect-the-river.
Life Saving Victoria is also spreading a safety message over the holiday period, with lifesaving operations spokesperson Kane Treloar saying there had been five drowning deaths in Victoria either on Christmas Day or Boxing Day over the past 10 years.
“Know your limitations, look out for your friends and loved ones, and take time to check conditions before entering the water,” he said.
“Conditions can change quickly so we ask people to check weather forecasts and monitor the conditions.”
He encouraged everyone heading to the beach to research beach hazard ratings, educate themselves on rip currents and find patrolled locations at beachsafe.org.au.