People need to stop thinking they won't drown and take more care around water, a researcher for Life Saving Victoria says.
More than a third of the 43 people who drowned in 2015/16 in Victoria had not intended to enter the water, says a Victorian Drowning Report released on Monday.
Eight of the 43 drownings were linked to alcohol consumption, while six who drowned in boating incidents were not wearing life jackets.
Overall, there were four more drownings than in 2014/15, and more of them were older people.
"It's time to stop thinking 'it won't happen to me, it'll happen to someone else'," LSV Principal Research Associate Bernadette Matthews said.
"People often think it's just young people, it's tourists that are drowning, but it's everyone."
A public awareness campaign will be launched next month after drownings of those aged 65 and over increased 40 per cent in 2015/16.
Emergency Services and Education Minister James Merlino says the deaths were a sobering reminder ahead of summer that waterways can be dangerous, and will be more so this season.
"It's been a very wet period in the past several months and that means our inland rivers are going to be higher and faster," he said.
"We have to be aware that this season will be a lot different to past seasons especially when it comes to inland rivers."
Mr Merlino also announced swimming lessons will be compulsory for primary school students from next year.
Year six students will be tested on their ability to swim 50 metres after undertaking swim survival classes.
Schools will not get extra funding to implement the policy, which is based on a trial, that's still being assessed.
A new YMCA Victoria water safety program, also announced Monday, encourages families to implement simple tactics to ensure constant supervision of each other around water.
One suggestion is to have designated supervisor shifts, with clear handover signs such as tapping the next designated supervisor on the shoulder at change over and saying 'you're it'.