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Water Safety and Drowning Prevention

Prepared by: Christine May, Senior Research Consultant, Clearinghouse for Sport
Reviewed by: Australasian Sport Information Network
Last updated: 08 September 2021
Content disclaimer: See Clearinghouse for Sport disclaimer

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that almost 236,000 people lost their lives to drowning in 2019. Just over 50% of these deaths occur among those aged under 30 years, and drowning is the sixth leading cause of death worldwide for children aged 5-14 years.

Many Australians have access to coastal beaches and/or inland bodies of water (including swimming pools) for recreational and sporting activities. Swimming is a popular leisure, fitness and sporting activity.

Increasing water safety and reducing drowning related injuries and deaths are priorities for Australian governments at all levels.

Key messages

Statistics

In 2020-21 there were 968 drowning incidents (294 fatal; 674 non-fatal) in Australian waterways. 80% of drowning deaths were male (a continuing trend).

Strategy

The Australian Water Safety Strategy 2030 aims to reduce fatal and non-fatal drowning by 50% by 2030.

Risk factors

Sex, age, socioeconomic status, pre-existing medical conditions and consumption of alcohol and/or drugs can influence a person’s risk of drowning.

Key water safety organisations

Australian Water Safety Council (AWSC)
Comprises the major water safety and related government agencies and focuses on the presentation of key water safety issues to governments, industry and the community.

Royal Life Saving Society Australia (RLSSA)
Dedicated to the prevention of drowning and advocacy for water safety; including education, training, risk management, leadership, and research.

Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA)
The peak coastal water safety, drowning prevention and rescue authority. SLSA is also the NSO for surf sports as competitive and recreational activities.

Programs and initiatives

Key areas of research

Statistics and reports
Data and trends relating to the prevalence and burden of fatal and non-fatal drowning.

Risk factors
Some population groups, activities, and locations have higher risks for drowning.

Prevention - interventions and strategies
Research and reviews of strategies and interventions to help prevent drowning.

Impact
Drowning (fatal or non-fatal) has health, social, and economic impacts for individuals and society.

Resources
Toolkits and good practice guides to help prevent drowning.

Is this information complete?

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