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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 2862


Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (10:38): I commend the member for Groom for bringing this motion to the House today. I welcome the Australian Water Safety Strategy of 2016, as we work to reduce the number of drowning related deaths. Alarmingly, there has been an increase in the number of deaths that are recorded in Australia by drowning, as the Royal Life Saving Society's national drowning report indicates. It is clear that much more needs to be done to ensure that measures are in place to increase people's awareness of water safety and to stop these needless tragedies.

Last year, 280 people died by drowning. Just last week there was a salient reminder when two little sisters—toddlers—died in a backyard pool in Logan in Queensland. This is unbelievably tragic for all of those involved—family, the medical people, the paramedics. It is a tragedy beyond belief. But do you know that the majority of drownings actually occurs on public holidays? Drownings are often associated with alcohol or drugs or a combination of both; these causes account for about 34 per cent of all drownings. Surprisingly, inland waterways are major and silent killers of people, according to the Australian Water Safety Council.

We definitely need to do more in this space to educate people not only to ensure that they are aware of the dangers but also to understand that places such as rivers, lakes, dams, irrigation channels, water tanks and creeks are not the safest place to swim because they do not have waves. According to Royal Life Saving Society Australia, in 2009-10 there were 59 drowning deaths that occurred in rivers, creeks and streams; three of whom were children under the age of five. There were also 42 people who drowned in lakes, dams and lagoons; four of whom were under the age of five. The National Injury Surveillance Unit says that for every drowning death in children there are three hospitalisations from near drowning. For every five children admitted to hospital following immersion, one child will be left with a severe and lasting neurological impairment. Simply, the flat surface of an inland waterway provides a false sense of security, in addition to tranquil waterways, which are just as dangerous as the ocean.

People from culturally and linguistically diverse communities in particular comprise the largest group of drowning deaths. This poses a real need for more targeted education and assistance with our multicultural communities, helping them to not only understand but identify dangers and become more savvy when it comes to water safety. The dangers of drowning affect everybody, regardless of age, race, ability, gender and social status. Support from the government is invaluable and critical in achieving success when it comes to conducting research and the delivery of programs and services through the implementation of initiatives aimed at increasing skills associated with water safety. A combination of a growing interest in water safety and better training for our lifesavers and lifeguards is essential and something we should continually pursue.

I thank the Royal Life Saving Society Australia, Surf Life Saving Australia, AUSTSWIM, the Australian Water Safety Council and all the lifesavers and those who work to protect our communities from water-related tragedies and to keep water safety at the forefront for our community everyday. I will end with this: each year Royal Life Saving Society Australia offers a bronze medallion course here at Parliament House. I have availed myself of that, as have many other members in the past. I would encourage all members to not only participate in this debate but also show a real interest in water safety by registering to gain their bronze medallion and show that they care about water safety in Australia.