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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 2853


Dr McVEIGH (Groom) (10:02): I move:

That this House:

(1) recognises that the number of drownings in Australia increased from 267 deaths in 2014-15 to 280 in 2015-16 as stated in the Royal Life Saving's National Drowning Report (September 2016), which shows:

(a) a quarter of all drownings occurred in inland waterways such as rivers, creeks and dams;

(b) almost one fifth of all deaths occurred in people age 25 to 35 years;

(c) 86 per cent of all drowning deaths were males; and

(d) there was a 30 per cent decrease in deaths of people age 0 to 4 years;

(2) acknowledges that every incidence of drowning has a wider impact including family, rescuers and communities;

(3) recognises that the Government released the Australian Water Safety Strategy in April 2016, which aims to reduce drowning deaths by 50 per cent by 2020;

(4) acknowledges that the Government is partnering with the peak water safety bodies such as Royal Life Saving (RLS), Surf Life Saving (SLS) and AUSTSWIM as well as Australian Water Safety Council Members and federal, state, territory and local governments, to work to prevent drowning;

(5) recognises that the Government is providing funding of $3.6 million in 2016-17 through the National Recreation Safety Program work towards the target of reducing drowning deaths; and

(6) congratulates RLS, SLS and other community groups for their work in educating people on the potential dangers of all our beaches and waterways.

I am honoured to move this motion, given the significance of the impact of drownings on communities right across our country, particularly regional communities—obviously, the people impacted directly, their families, friends, rescuers and others in the community who may be touched upon by such tragedies, whether they are in fact fatal or even non-fatal outcomes.

In moving the motion I refer, as outlined in the motion itself, to the Australian Water Safety Strategy, released in April this year by the health minister, which aims to reduce drowning deaths by 50 per cent by the year 2020. The strategy, and other reports on which it is based, clearly outlines some of the causation factors and, of course, some of the key issues when we look at drowning statistics right across the country—for example, that almost one-fifth of all deaths occur in the age group from 25 to 35; the fact that a significant number of drownings—some 86 per cent—were males; and that, whilst we remain very concerned about the safety of, particularly, young people in the 0 to 4 age group, we note that there has been some decrease in recent statistics.

As I said, this impacts on each and every community right across our country, and I will refer briefly to my own community. The city of Toowoomba is Australia's second-largest inland city, behind Canberra. It is a beautiful place, perched on the Great Dividing Range. Many of our residents would say that it would be perfect if we had one more thing, more water—a beach, a river or even a lake. You would think that the absence of those sorts of natural assets would protect us from the tragedy of drowning, but we in the garden city—a significant regional community—are too often reminded that we are not immune to the vagaries of water and its fickle nature.

In the past two years, we have lost three young lives in our wider region. A two-year-old drowned in a tank of water whilst playing a harmless game of hide-and-seek; a 15-month-old fell into a partially drained pool and, despite the best efforts of paramedics, died later in hospital; and a two-year-old went missing from his rural property and, unfortunately, was later found in a dam. These are the real tragedies behind these statistics. Theirs were bright young lives taken before their time. These are the types of deaths that our government is hoping to prevent in future by partnering with peak bodies such as Surf Life Saving and AUSTSWIM, together with various state and local government authorities.

A few weekends ago in my city of Toowoomba, a lifesaver talked at East Creek Park about water safety with ABC presenter Belinda Sanders. She asked: 'Are we your target audience, rural people who simply go to the beach once a year and may not be surf aware?' The lifesaver spoke about a local program, Downs Little Lifeguards, which focuses on educating young people of our region to recognise potential dangers and the survival strategies that they might need in case of an emergency. He spoke about how much the children enjoyed their trips to places such as the Gold Coast and the need for them to get hands-on experience in identifying currents and rips. He also talked about the positive aspects of education and needing to also focus on regional areas, such as where I live.

I talked briefly about the impacts in the broader community. Recent studies have shown that, for children in the zero to 19-year age group, for every one drowning death, a further nine children are hospitalised. So it is not just the fatal but also the non-fatal that we need to consider in terms of impacts. The strategy to which I have referred has a range of priority areas and 11 goals for reducing deaths, which I encourage members to study.

We should always be most thankful for the efforts of water safety bodies, such as Royal Life Saving, Surf Life Saving, AUSTSWIM, members of the Australian Water Safety Council and, of course, the various federal, state, territory and local government bodies that work together to prevent drowning deaths in our community.

The SPEAKER: Is the motion seconded?