Drowning warning ahead of Australia Day

Kidsafe Victoria and Life Saving Victoria are urging Melton and Moorabool parents and carers to ensure children are actively supervised in or around water this Australia Day holiday in a bid to prevent childhood drownings.

The call comes as Life Saving Victoria statistics reveal five children under the age of 10 have drowned in Victoria since July 1, 2021, including two this summer.

It also follows the recent release of a coronial finding into the tragic death of a four-year-old boy who died while celebrating his brother’s birthday at a holiday park.

The finding noted the busy and hectic environment of a large gathering created circumstances where the attention of the attending adults had been stretched, distracted or divided.

To help overcome these risks and keep kids safe around water, Kidsafe Victoria general manager Jason Chambers recommended carers set designated supervisors to ensure there is no confusion about who is keeping watch of children in and around water.

“When there are many adults around it can be easy to assume that someone else is actively supervising the kids around water, when in fact nobody is,” said Mr Chambers.

“Twenty seconds and a few centimeters of water is all it takes for a toddler to drown. Active adult supervision means keeping them within arm’s reach at all times around water, without any distractions.”

“To help make sure children are actively supervised at all times, we recommend appointing designated supervisors whose role it is to supervise children in and around the pool or other bodies of water. Rotating this role throughout the day ensures everyone gets a chance to enjoy the festivities.”

Reinforcing Mr Chambers’ advice, Life Saving Victoria general manager health promotion and communications Dr Bernadette Matthews said a rise in child drownings during recent years had put the water safety authority on high alert.

In 2020-21, 15 of the state’s 61 fatal drownings were children under the age of 14 years, representing Victoria’s worst child drowning toll in 20 years.

“After a terrible year for child drownings last year, we’re unfortunately once again seeing children over-represented in the drowning statistics this year, with one in six fatal drownings in Victoria since 1 July, 2021 involving kids under the age of 10 years ,” Dr Matthews said.

“Every drowning is a tragedy, but especially when they involve children, and our sincere condolences go out to everyone affected by these incidents.

“Drowning should be preventable.

“We’re concerned people are underestimating the risks around water with fatal consequences.

“While we understand pool closures and missed swimming lessons have affected the swimming skills and confidence of thousands of Victorian children, it’s important to remember that the primary prevention against childhood drowning is active and constant adult supervision around water.

“A child you can’t see is a child in danger. Don’t let a lapse in concentration lead to devastation.”

The organizations have shared their top tips to help keep children safe in and around water.

Water safety tips:

• Actively supervise children in and around water at all times. For toddlers, this means having an adult within arms’ reach.

• Appoint designated supervisors at BBQs and pool parties whose role it is to supervise the kids in and around the pool. This role can be shared throughout the day so that everyone gets a chance to enjoy the festivities.

• Don’t rely on swimming and flotation aids or inflatable pool toys to keep children safe – they are not designed to prevent drowning.

• Ensure your pool barrier is secure and in proper working order.

• Ensure no climbable objects are near the barrier, including pot plants, chairs, BBQs or pool pumps which could allow a child to climb over the barrier.

• Never prop the pool gate open, this allows children easy and often unsupervised access to the pool area.

• Learn CPR and update your skills regularly.

• Be mindful of other potential water hazards, as toddlers can drown in as little as a few centimeters of water. This includes eskys with melted ice, wading/inflatable pools, bathtubs with reachable bath plugs, and ponds.

For more information on Kidsafe’s water safety tips and ‘Safe Barriers Save Lives’ pool safety campaign, visit Kidsafe Victoria’s pool and spa safety website. Details: www.kidsafevic.com.au/water-safety/pool-fence-safety/

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Mike Hunter

Mike is the owner of the local pool shop. He's been in the business for over 20 years and knows everything there is to know about pools. He's always happy to help his customers with whatever they need, whether it's advice on pool maintenance or choosing the right chemicals. He's also a bit of a pool expert, and is always happy to share his knowledge with anyone who's interested.

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