Water safety warning for children ahead of Australia Day

Safety alert: Kidsafe and Life Saving Victoria have shared their top tips for keeping children safe by the water ahead of Australia Day. Photo: AAP Photo by AAP Photo

Parents and carers are urged to ensure children are actively supervised in or near water on this Australian public holiday to prevent drowning.

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 result found that the busy and hectic environment of a large gathering had created circumstances in which the attention of the adults present was stretched, distracted, or divided.

Jason Chambers, general manager of Kidsafe Victoria, recommended that caregivers appoint specific supervisors to ensure there is no confusion over who is looking after children in and around the water.

“When there are a lot of adults around, it’s easy to assume that someone else is actively supervising the children by the waterfront, when in fact no one is,” he said.

“Twenty seconds and a few inches of water is enough for a toddler to drown.

“Active adult supervision means they’re always within reach on the water with no distractions.”

Life Saving Victoria’s Bernadette Matthews said an increase in child drowning rates in recent years has put the Water Safety Agency on high alert.

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

“After a terrible year for child drownings last year, we are sadly seeing again this year that children are over-represented in drowning statistics,” said Dr. matthews

“Every drowning is a tragedy, especially when it involves children, and our sincere condolences go out to all those affected by these incidents.

“Drowning should be preventable. We are concerned that people underestimate the risks related to water with fatal consequences.

“While we understand that pool closures and missed swimming lessons have impacted the swimming skills and confidence of thousands of Victorian children, it is important to remember that the primary prevention of child drowning is active and constant adult supervision in the community close to the water.”

For more information on Kidsafe’s water safety tips and Safe Barriers Save Lives pool safety campaign, visit the Kidsafe Victoria pool and spa safety website.

Visit Life Saving Victoria’s website for information on water safety skills and knowledge maintenance, with or without access to a pool.

The organizations have shared their top tips for keeping children safe in and around the water

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

• At BBQ and pool parties, designate supervisors whose job it is to supervise children in and around the pool. This role can be shared throughout the day, giving everyone a chance to enjoy the festivities.

• Do not rely on flotation devices or inflatable pool toys to protect children – they are not designed to prevent drowning.

• Make sure your pool barrier is secure and in good condition.

• Make sure there are no climbable objects near the barrier, including potted plants, chairs, grills, or pool pumps that could allow a child to climb over the barrier.

• Never propped the pool gate open. This allows children easy and often unsupervised access to the pool area.

• Learn CPR and update your skills regularly.

• Be aware of other potential water hazards, as small children can drown in just a few inches of water. These include eskys with melted ice, paddling/inflatable pools, bathtubs with reachable plugs, and ponds.

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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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