A quarter of Australian drownings involve migrants, new research shows

Programs run by Royal Life Saving Australia target children and migrants in the hope of lowering the incidents of drowning.

More than 400 swimming schools around the country will provide free swimming lessons to young children for a week, with the aim of reducing the rate of drownings.

Now in its fourth year, Learn2Swim week will run until the 9th of October.

“Swimming lessons are really important under the age of five, the earlier you start, the more respect you have for the water and the easier it is to get them to reinforce simple water safety skills,” swimming instructor, Bernadette Rothwell told SBS News.

Two-hundred-and-forty-nine people drowned in Australian waterways in the year to 30th June 2018 representing an 11 per cent reduction on the ten-year average.

Royal Life Saving Australia is working with the Australian Water Safety Council to try to cut drownings in half by 2020.

“The greatest progress that we have seen has been in children aged zero to 14. In our latest National Drowning Report, we do report on this, and we have seen a reduction of 41 per cent from 2004-05 to where we are at the moment,” Royal Life Saving Australia senior research and policy officer told SBS News.

A parental survey regarding child water safety skills
Source: SBS News

But a survey among parents show they are fearful of their children in water.

One in three who took part in a national survey said they believe their child would be unable to get out of a pool if they fell in, and almost half rated their son or daughter as having poor or average water safety skills.

The National Drownings Report shows that a quarter of drownings in Australian waters over the past decade involved someone born overseas leading the Royal Life Saving Australia society to target migrants and international students.

Existing programs focus on providing swimming lessons, water-safety instructions and knowledge of appropriate beach behaviour.

According to Blair Morton, from Life Saving Victoria, migrants tend to be unfamiliar with conditions.

“Ideas about things like rips. The idea of water being a moving, rather than a static body. The idea of floating in the water and that clothes might be precipitous to floating. These kinds of things which mainstream Australians would consider basic are all examples of things that may not know or may not fully understand,” Mr Morton told SBS News.

International students were the fourth-largest category when it came to drownings, with recent arrivals - people in Australia for five years or less - and tourists as other leading categories.

The report also found, people born in China, New Zealand, Britain, South Korea and India were most at risk.

Published 4 October 2018 at 9:30pm, updated 5 October 2018 at 6:35am
By Joy Joshi, Laurie Lawira, Charlotte Lam