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New national step in the fight to prevent drownings.

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The Hon. Andrew Thomson, MP

Minister for Sport and Tourism

Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Sydney 2000 Games


Wednesday, 29 July 1998





Australia has taken another st ep in the battle to prevent drownings, with the release today of a new National Water Safety Plan.


The issue of improving water safety was brought into sharp focus last summer with a startling increase in tragedies at our beaches and in our rivers.


Launching the plan at Sydney’s Bondi Icebergs’ Club, Federal Sport and Tourism Minister, Andrew Thomson, said that despite the massive efforts of governments and water safety organisations, people continued to drown at an unacceptably high rate.


“Australians love the water, and international tourists are drawn here by our magnificent beaches and waterways, but unfortunately people appear to have become complacent about the many risks associated with water-based activities," Mr Thomson said.


“Drowning is currently the third highest cause of accidental death in this country, with more than 300 people dying each year in our surf, in rivers, creeks, dams and backyard pools, and even in baths and nappy buckets.


“It is the number one killer of our toddlers aged between 0 and 5.


“It is obviously time for us to take a new approach to the issue ˜ for a coordinated national effort to reduce the annual incidence of drowning to as close as possible to zero.


The National Water Safety Plan, developed by the Australian Water Safety Council, identifies four key areas that must be addressed by all levels of government, and organisations involved in water safety, and sport and recreation, to achieve a permanent reduction in drownings in Australia.


These are:


1. Water safety research

2. Management of aquatic locations

3. Water safety education

4. Targeting key drowning demographics


It also outlines a series of strategies that need to be implemented to achieve the required results in these areas (attached).


Australian Water Safety Council Convenor, Rob Bradley, said the release of the National Water Safety Plan was extremely significant for water safety in Australia.


“It provides a tremendous opportunity for all water safety organisations, and the various levels of government to work cooperatively to attack the drowning problem,” he said.


Mr Thomson said the Plan was an ambitious and sweeping response to what is a largely avoidable, national tragedy.


“I intend to work closely with my State, Territory and local government counterparts to help reduce this terrible toll,” he said.


The Australian Water Safety Council was launched in February this year to develop and implement national water safety initiatives. It brings together representatives from eight peak water safety organi sations and government.






Contact: Craig Regan - Minister Thomson’s Office - 02 6277 7080  0419 987 765

Web site:


(NOTE: Copies of the report are available from Minister Thomson’s Office, MF51)




Summary of Recommendations


Key result area 1: water safety research


• Recommendation 1: That a Research Coordinating Body be established as part of the AWSC to identify water safety research needs and to facilitate research opportunities and projects. This Australian Water Safety Research Committee would facilitate research through organisations like National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), National Injury Surveillance Unit (NISU), National Coronial Information System (NCIS) and Research Departments of Universities.


• Recommendation 2: That a National Water Safety Audit be conducted to determine all currently available services, programs and resources.


• Recommendation 3: That Drowning Statistics be collated from ABS and State Coroners with subsequent dissemination and access to relevant Water Safety organisations.


• Recommendation 4: That Coronor's Reports on aquatic incidents be provided directly to a central collection agency.


Key result area 2: management of aquatic locations


• Recommendation 5: That Safety Audits must be conducted on all Aquatic Locations in particular on all areas used as regular swimming locations - beaches, pools and inland swimming holes.


• Recommendation 6: That State Legislation be enacted to ensure that if an aquatic facility is part of a development, or a development is proposed adjacent to an aquatic environment, the Building Application and Development Application must include an appropriate Safety Plan.


• Recommendation 7: Appropriate Safety Services must be provided at all locations of aquatic recreation.


Key result area 3: water safety education


• Recommendation 8: That Water Safety Education in schools comply with the competencies contained in the National Curriculum Framework.


• Recommendation 9: That Water Safety Competency Targets be set for all Australian children established at appropriate Age/Developmental levels.


• Recommendation 10: That specific attention be provided to ensure access to Water Safety education by people in rural and particularly remote country locations.


• Recommendation 11: That national safety standards be established for Learn to Swim & Water Safety programs be conducted by Swimming School operators.


• Recommendation 12: That all Swimming Teachers and Coaches hold an appropriate level of accreditation equivalent to the AUSTSWIM Teacher of Swimming and Water Safety.


Competencies in Related Aquatic Fields

Specific Safety Standards must be met in relation to all Aquatic Recreational pursuits:


• Recommendation 13: (Boating) That PFD's (Personal Flotation Devices) be worn as a mandatory piece of Safety Equipment by all persons on board boats crossing off-shore sand bars. Liability for the wearing of PFD's in this circumstance to be directed at the boat's skipper/driver.


• Recommendation 14: (Diving) That all trainees comply with the requirements of the Standards Australia AS4005.1 - Training and Certification of Recreational Divers.


• Recommendation 15: (Fishing) That improved access to educational programs and safety systems be provided for recreational fishers.


Key result area 4: targeting key drowning demographics


Recommendation 16: (The 0-5 Age Group) That the Drowning Prevention Program outlined in Appendix 1.(KRA 4) be implemented nationally as the No. 1 Priority of this National Water Safety Plan.

Zero Tolerance of drownings in the Home Environment.


Recommendation 17: (Traditional Risk Takers: Male 16-35) That research be conducted through NHMRC as to the best way to approach educating this demographic against "risk taking" behaviour. The research should investigate Alcohol and Recreational Activity in this age group generally with the water being one of the environments studied.


Recommendation 18: (Traditional Risk Takers: Male 16-35) That the Drowning Prevention Program outlined in Appendix 1.(KRA 4) be implemented nationally.


Recommendation 19: (Rural Communities) That the Drowning Prevention Plan outlined in Appendix 1.(KRA 4) be implemented nationally. Rural communities have been identified as one of the three High Risk groups of drowning victims.


Recommendation 20: (Tourists) That all In-bound Tourists and Migrants receive important Water Safety Information through strategies outlined in Appendix 1. (KRA 4).


Recommendation 21: (Culturally Diverse Communities) That key water safety messages be publicised in a variety of different languages and promoted directly to ethnic groups through Local Councils and through cultural specific publications.