Australian drownings lowest on record

Australia's annual drowning report has revealed a record low number of deaths.
Australia's annual drowning report has revealed a record low number of deaths.

Australia recorded its lowest ever figure for drownings in the past financial year, a new report has revealed.

The 2018 National Drowning Report by Royal Life Saving Australia (RLSA) was released on Wednesday and shows 249 people drowned in Australian waterways in 2017-18.

That figure is well under the 10-year average of 279 drownings per year, and a 14 per cent reduction on last year.

RSLA chief executive Justin Scarr said the figures showed drowning prevention initiatives were working.

"However, we cannot be complacent about water safety," he said on Wednesday.

"Toddler drowning deaths have been dramatically reduced over time, yet drowning continues to be one of the leading causes of accidental death of children aged under five years.

"Swimming and water safety education remains a key priority for all school aged children."

Of those fatalities 72 per cent were men, with 103 men between the ages of 25-64 dying.

There was a 30 per cent reduction in the total number of children aged 0-4 who drowned in 2017-18, with swimming pool drowning deaths in children under five reducing by 20 per cent when compared to the 10-year average.

Rivers, creeks and streams are the deadliest waterways in Australia with 61 drowning deaths in those bodies of water, although that number is a 10 per cent reduction on the previous year.

While the report showed there were only 46 deaths at Australian beaches in 2017-18, the number of drownings at beaches for the 35-44 age group doubled in that time compared to the 10-year average with 12 fatalities.

A 2018 National Coastal Safety Report by Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) revealed 110 coastal drownings occurred in the past year which is above the 14 year average of 99 drownings.

"We are both pleased and saddened to present this report," SLSA president Graham Ford said.

"While it demonstrates many actions that have been taken and lives saved, it also represents the tragic story of lives lost at our beaches."

NSW had the most drownings of any state with 87 deaths, followed by Queensland with 60.

RLSA research estimates the combined effects of drowning and near-drowning incidents cost Australia $1.47 billion in healthcare, emergency services, coronial and productivity effects.

Each drowning in Australia costs an average of $4.56 million in accumulated costs, the RLSA says.

The report says pre-existing medical conditions, a lack of local knowledge and drug or alcohol intoxication were key factors in many of the drownings.

Australian Associated Press