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  • Smiling girl wearing goggles at beach (Blend Images)Source: Blend Images
Spending time at the beach is one of the joys of summer in Australia, but they can also be dangerous places for those who aren't familiar. Here are a few things it's important to know to stay safe in the water.
Audrey Bourget

12 Dec 2017 - 5:02 PM  UPDATED 12 Dec 2017 - 5:06 PM

291 people died drowning last year in Australia. That’s nine more people than in 2016 and 25 more than in 2015.

Tragically, many of the deaths that made headlines were foreigners, visitors or new migrants who were unfamiliar with the risks associated with swimming in Australian waters. 

Thankfully, with just a few precautions, we can all enjoy a nice day at the beach this summer. Here are some of the tips to keep in mind.

Go to patrolled beaches

The area between red and yellow flags at patrolled beaches is the safest place to swim.

"It just means that there are lifeguards around if you need some help. We've got equipment there like rescue boards and jet skis, and access to helicopters," explains Surf Life Saving Queensland’s Scott Harrison.

If you want to know if a beach is patrolled and what are the conditions there, download the Beachsafe app.

If you’re a confident swimmer and decide to go to an unpatrolled beach, always swim with friends, avoid beaches with big waves and learn to recognise rip currents.

Pools and rivers

Beaches are not the only place where you have to be water-safe. Pools might not seem as daunting, but children should be watched at all time there too.

Rivers are the number one location for migrant drowning deaths in Australia. Always assess your surroundings before swimming in a river.

"One of the key things is to make sure you walk in the river,says Craig Roberts, the National Manager for Aquatic Risk at the Royal Life Saving Society. "Ask the locals about what are the dangers of the rivers, be aware there are dangers underneath the water, wear a life jacket, learn CPR, and always swim with someone else," 

Be prepared and careful when rock fishing

Rock fishing is one of the most dangerous sports in Australia, claiming many lives every year.

Rock fishers need to have the right safety equipment, including appropriate footwear and a life jacket. Check the weather before you go out, avoid fishing if the waves are too big and always go fishing with at least one friend.

It only takes a few seconds for a rock fisher to be swept out to sea and on top of drowning, there is also the danger of being smashed against rocks.

Learn CPR

Learning CPR could help you save the life of a loved one. Getting early access to a person who is drowning and administrating CPR rapidly is an important factor of saving someone’s life.

There are several organisations offering courses, including Royal Life Saving Australia and the Red Cross.

Resources in different languages

Migrants and international visitors tend to be at higher risk of drowning because they're not familiar with the environment.

The Beachsafe app is free and available in 72 languages. It provides information about patrol status, facilities, hazards, weather, swell and tide.

The Beach Safe website by Surf Life Saving Australia also offers information in several languages, including top tips for visiting Australian beaches and how to spot and survive a rip current.

When you’re at the beach, you can always request help from a lifeguard.

More Australians drown in horror year as review of water safety strategy is announced
While children under five remain the group most likely to drown, the number of older Australians getting into trouble in the water has also increased.