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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 2857

Mr GEORGANAS (Hindmarsh) (10:18): I rise to speak on this very important motion on deaths by drowning. I am disappointed to hear that the member for Hughes has decided to bring politics into such a motion. We are talking about drownings. Only last week a family lost two children. It is an absolute disgrace that we bring in politics and try to bring some form of politicking to such a serious issue.

In my electorate of Hindmarsh the western boundary is the coast, the metropolitan beaches. They are very popular beaches, from Somerton right down to Semaphore, and include the beachside suburbs of Glenelg, Henley, Grange, West Beach and Tennyson. Every year, tragically, we hear of a drowning—sometimes more than one—at one of those beaches. A recent one I can recall was a group of people who were fishing off the rocks at Semaphore. A wave took them in and we lost a particular person—which was very tragic—towards the end of last summer. All of these beaches are patrolled by some wonderful Surf Life Saving clubs and their volunteers—people who give hours of their life towards saving other lives. Surf Life Saving clubs and, of course, Royal Life Saving carry out vital work to keep us all safe in the water. This is why it was a real pleasure on 15 September 2016 to join many of my colleagues here in this House, on both sides of this chamber, who were in attendance in a bipartisan, non-political way to receive the Royal Life Saving national drowning report 2016, which was compiled by Royal Life Saving.

As we heard earlier, the report found there were 280 deaths in Australian waterways between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2016. This is an increase of 13 drowning deaths compared with the previous reporting period—13 too many. Importantly, however, while the number of people drowning has increased this past financial year, it remains lower than the 10-year average, which, I suppose, is a good sign. Of those 280 people who drowned, 83 per cent were male. It is particularly welcoming to note that the number of children aged zero to four who drowned decreased by 30 per cent against the 10-year average. The report also shows us that drowning deaths occur throughout the year during all seasons, not just during the summer seasons and weekends but randomly throughout all days of the week and times of the day.

As I said, this was an important report. It showed us the significance of being vigilant at all times in and around water, whether you have a backyard pool or whether you are in a creek or a river. Research into drowning allows us to inform the public and relevant authorities about the size of the problem. You are able to track trends and progress over time, which allows us to try prevent drownings through evidence-based prevention strategies—that is what Royal Life Saving does. One example is the Australian Water Safety Strategy 2016-2020, which has identified a number of activities and initiatives which will play a key role in the achievement of the strategy's goals. These include advocacy, research, collaboration, the creation of safe venues—at the beach or by pools—workforce, policy and education. The strategy also resulted in the establishment of the Australian Water Safety Council. This body acts as a collective voice for Australia's leading water safety organisations. It is so important to put these strategies into place to ensure that we do absolutely everything that is possible to prevent a single drowning.

I would like to give a particular shout out to the clubs in my electorate. I have some great surf lifesaving clubs: Glenelg Surf Life Saving Club, Grange, Henley, Semaphore, Somerton and the West Beach Surf Life Saving Club. Only last week I was at Grange speaking with Stephen Byrne, the president, and seeing the good work that they are doing in the prevention of deaths and drownings. I saw the new premises they are currently building. We also have Surf Central in my electorate and the headquarters of Surf Life Saving SA at West Beach, which does enormously great work.