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965 toddlers have drowned in the past 25 years:

Parents are urged to keep watch after this new research about drowning toddlers in Australia
By Expert Tips
Date: October 28 2018
Editor Rating:
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A new report from Royal Life Saving Society – Australia reveals that 965 children aged 0-4 years drowned in Australia between 1 July 1993 and 30 June 2018. Accidental falls into water were recorded as the leading activity resulting in drowning.

Summer is just around the corner which means many more families will be spending time around the pool and other waterways to cool off.

Royal Life Saving is launching the Keep Watch campaign, urging parents and carers to supervise children at all times around water.

A lapse in adult supervision was the major risk factor in 100% of toddler drowning deaths.

“It can only take a few moments for a child to slip away unnoticed, fall into the water and drown”, said Justin Scarr, CEO at Royal Life Saving Society – Australia.

“Drowning is often quick and silent. Distractions like browsing social media on your phone, attending to another child, or ducking inside to grab something can have tragic consequences if a toddler is left unattended by water. It’s important for parents and carers to take extra safety precautions. Always Keep Watch of children around water” said Mr Scarr.

Swimming pools are the leading location for drowning deaths among young children in Australia, accounting for 52% of all drowning deaths (2002/03 – 2017/18).

Faulty or propped open gates are the primary risk factors in home pool drowning deaths of young children.

Justin Scarr, CEO at Royal Life Saving Society – Australia said preventing accidental drowning requires multiple layers of protection.

“Active supervision is the best protection against child drowning, however kids can be quick and hard to keep up with so it’s vital to fence pools and spas to prevent children gaining access. Regularly check that your fence and gate are in working order, and never prop the gate open” said Mr Scarr.

The shocking research report has also revealed that for every fatal drowning there were an estimated 7.6 non-fatal drowning incidents resulting in hospitalisation. That is approximately 7,361 children who suffered a non-fatal drowning over the last 25 years, many live with a permanent disability as a result.  

“These figures are horrifying, and while we have seen the rate of unintentional fatal drowning among children under five decline by 67%, it is still unacceptably high” said Justin Scarr, CEO at Royal Life Saving Society – Australia. 

“Such reductions have been possible due to a concerted effort in areas such as government policy and enforcement, public awareness and education programs such as Keep Watch, advocacy and research. The introduction and subsequent strengthening of pool fencing legislation, including the introduction of swimming pool registers and inspection regimes, has contributed to making the home pool environment safer for young children,” said Mr Scarr.

Royal Life Saving research shows a reduction in the five-year average child drowning rate from 4.35 per 100,000 population between 1993/94 and 1997/98 to 1.14 per 100,000 population in 2017/18. This is largely a result of pool fencing legislation and child drowning prevention campaigns and has saved more than 550 lives over the past 20 years.

“If the rate of drowning we had twenty years ago, continued today, there would have been 70 deaths, more than four times the 18 young lives lost last year. This is substantial progress, and many lives have been saved, but we won’t stop campaigning until it is zero,” said Mr Scarr.

Although there has been a significant reduction in the rate of drowning among toddlers, drowning remains one of the leading causes of accidental death of children aged 0 - 4 years old. 

Royal Life Saving recommends the following Keep Watch safety tips to keep your child safe from drowning:

  1. Actively supervise children around water
  2. Restrict Access
  3. Teach water awareness
  4. Learn how to resuscitate 

Visit and join the conversation online via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, using #KeepWatch.

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