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Ministers unite to save lives

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Media Release

Australia’s Sport and Recreation Ministers are to take a national approach to try to curb the number of lives lost at our beaches and in our waterways.

In an emergency telephone hook-up convened today by Federal Minister for Sport and Tourism, Jackie Kelly, Ministers agreed on range of strategies aimed at achieving a unified national approach to address the problem.

These include improving the research and information on drownings to ensure future reduction strategies are more effective, reviewing the significant funding already spent on water safety to ensure it is ‘spent smarter’, and running campaigns to educate key target groups (for example young males and international tourists) on how to enjoy our waters safely.

The meeting confirmed that on a fragmented basis - each State was already undertaking important water safety work. Ministers agreed to share information and experience relating to their water safety initiatives.

Minister Kelly said a critical move would be to better use coronial reports and other data to gain a greater understanding o f the circumstances behind drownings, including what the victim was doing when they drowned, where they were from, their age and background.

The Ministers also agreed to a national water safety conference " including key stakeholders ' as a matter of priority to progress a national unified awareness strategy.

The conference will closely consider such things as a video for international visitors on point of arrival, magazine advertising, in-flight messages, signage at beaches and so forth.

“ I believe that we need to review the significant sums of money already being spent to make sure that we spend that money sm arter.”

“And, I think that - as an historic first in Australia - we should develop up to date and detailed analysis of coroner’s reports and police reports of drownings to look at such things as the psychology, circumstance, and other contributing details - on a national basis - to ensure we learn from these tragedies - to try and stop history from repeating itself.

“This intelligence should perhaps be fed back into our communications/awareness strategies.”

The Ministers agreed it was time for all parties to work collaboratively to ensure we have ‘best practice’ in Australia in order to save lives.

Minister for Sport and Tourism

Friday, 15 January 1999 005/98


Parliam ent H ouse, C a n b erra ACT 2600 Tel: (02) 6277 7080 Fax: (02) 6273 4 5 7 1


Minister Kelly said the new approach would help ensure that future water safety strategies were better targeted, better informed and more effective

The Ministers agreed that despite increased spending on water safety awareness across Australia the high number of drownings continue to occur. Despite the high profile o f surf related drownings - a higher number occur in inland rivers, dams and pools.

Each year more than 300 Australians and international visitors needlessly lose their lives in our waters and given the recent spate of tragedies it looks like 1999 is going to be no different,” Minister Kelly said.

“I believe this co-ordinated, national approach to complement individual initiatives is the only way ahead if we are to have any real chance of reducing this terrible toll.”

“ We can learn from one another - and other key stake-holders - such as the Life Savers, AustSwim, the peak tourist industry groups and the airlines to develop a national perspective,” Minister Kelly said.

“As well-intentioned as our efforts have been - 1 believe key pieces of the puzzle are missing and it is our duty to find them ,” Kelly said.

Minister Kelly, who recently launched a new TV, cinema and internet advertising campaign promoting Australia’s beaches to 300 million people around the world, said many visitors are unaware of basic beach safety.

“Many o f these visitors have no concept o f “rips” and “surf-life savers” let alone swimming between the flags, Jackie Kelly said.

Minister Kelly said today’s teleconference was the first step in the campaign to save lives and she thanked her State and Territory counterparts for their participation. She said she would also be discussing the national conference with water safety organisations, airlines, police and tourism bodies.

Media inquiries: Peter Cassuben CMR095 Minister Kelly’s Office (02) 9247 5378

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