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Monday, 15 June 2009
Page: 6040

Mr NEUMANN (7:56 PM) —It is a really terrifying thought, but last year on average one little boy or little girl drowned every week. Drowning is the No. 1 preventable killer of toddlers in Australia. For parents, the really scary thing is that it can happen so quietly and so quickly: one moment they are playing, and the next moment they are at the bottom of the pool. Every day the lives of young Australians are being put at risk with so many private swimming pools lacking basic safety requirements and posing potential deathtraps to toddlers. Behind the drowning statistics are the sad stories of young lives cut tragically short and grieving families left to mourn their loss.

I have seen how devastating the loss of a child can be through one family in my constituency: Katherine and Andrew Plint, who lived in Laidley, and lost their daughter Hannah almost two years ago. On 4 October 2007, at nearly three years of age, Katherine and Andrew’s daughter Hannah climbed onto a chair in the backyard of their family home, unlocked the gate to the family pool and fell into the pool. Tragically, Hannah died within minutes of dragging the plastic chair to the pool gate. Hannah died in a non-compliant, unapproved, above-ground pool that her parents had purchased with their home in October 2006. Hannah’s parents loved their daughter and would have done anything to ensure her safety. They thought the pool was compliant. It was only following her death that they discovered that their backyard pool was built illegally, no application had been submitted to the council to build the pool and no compliance checks were ever undertaken. This tragic incident impacted enormously on their family and the wider community.

With the grief of Hannah’s passing, the Plints turned to helping those in need. They established Hannah’s Foundation—drowning prevention, awareness and support. It is a registered charity. Commissioner Bob Atkinson, the Commissioner of the Queensland Police Service, is the patron. The Plints have struggled and strained and advocated for pool legislation reform following their daughter’s coronial inquest. They have urged the state government and the federal government to overhaul a 20-year-old law.

One death by drowning is one death too many. A national drowning and prevention awareness memorial day would be appropriate to raise community awareness about the risks of drowning and to remember the young lives lost.

The Plints have asked me to thank the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, for her message of support and her condolences on their memorial day on 4 October, which I had the privilege of attending in Laidley. In view of the wonderful advocacy of the Plints, it would be appropriate in the circumstances if 4 October could be set aside each year as the memorial day. Whilst it is important to teach our children to swim, it is crucial we equip our schools to provide CPR and first aid. This will save lives. Shockingly, in Queensland alone, reports show that up to 100,000 private swimming pools are failing basic safety requirements. Each of these pools is a potential death trap. We need to change the laws. Currently, in Queensland alone, there are approximately 11 different confusing sets of pool laws. An expert panel has recommended this be simplified to ensure we comply with the latest Australian standards. If we can do the Building the Education Revolution nationally and deal with the states and territories, we can ensure, along with the national curriculum, that we have a national approach to reform in this regard.

I commend Andrew and Katherine for their wonderful advocacy. Ken Chandler, who is also a constituent of mine, is the Executive Director of the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia. He advocates that pools should be safety audited every two years. Ken has a long history of involvement in sporting organisations, particularly in the area of swimming, where he helps young people in the Ipswich and West Moreton areas to learn about how to protect themselves and about water safety. One death is just too many for young people. Those of us who are parents in this place love our children. If we can help people like the Plints, we need to do everything we can to ensure a national approach to this issue. State reform has failed and council reform has failed. A national approach is required and a national day is appropriate under the circumstances. I put this motion before the House to ensure there are no parents having to go through what the Plints went through—the pain, the agony, the depression and the recrimination. In all these circumstances, I commend the motion to the House.