The Queen has presented renowned Brisbane paediatrician John Pearn with the Royal Life Saving Society's top award for his work in preventing child drownings.
A renowned Brisbane paediatrician whose work led to the fencing of backyard pools to prevent toddler drownings has received the Royal Life Saving Society's most prestigious award from the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
Professor John Pearn, a world leader in preventing child drownings, was presented with the King Edward VII Cup at a palace reception on Tuesday evening to mark the society's 125th anniversary.
The 76-year-old said it was an "enormous privilege" to receive the cup, which is awarded every two years to Commonwealth members of the society who have made an outstanding contribution to lifesaving.
"It's been so very special to have the work of not just me but so many people who work to keep children's lives safe recognised in this way," Prof Pearn told reporters after the awards ceremony.
"Her Majesty, of course a great grandmother herself, loves children very much and is very sympathetic to all who work to keep children safe."
The Queen, who is the life saving society's patron, presented the award in the palace's picture gallery and posed with Prof Pearn in front of the very large cup, which will stay in the UK.
Back in the 1970s when backdoor pools became affordable and popular, Prof Pearn and other child safety advocates noted a spike in toddler drownings.
"In my own city of Brisbane a child was pulled out of the water, dead or apparently dead once every week within 25km of the GPO," he said.
A campaign led to legislation requiring the fencing of pools.
"Now for example it's extremely rare for a toddler to drown in a backyard pool in any of the Australian states where there's rigorously enforced safety barriers around backyard water hazards," Prof Pearn said.
It was also important to teach first aid and resuscitation which can greatly increase the chances of survival, he said.
But child drowning remains a worldwide problem.
"Even today, unbelievable numbers of children drown in Bangladesh, 20,000 a year," Prof Pearn said..
He is known for his work at Brisbane's Royal Childrens' Hospital and the University of Queensland's School of Medicine and in 2009 was awarded an Order of Australia (AO) for service to medicine.
Justin Scarr, the CEO of Royal Life Saving Society Australia, was at Tuesday's reception and said the award to Prof Pearn was an honour for all Australians.
"To this day swimming pool fencing legislation is a really effective way of reducing child drowning."