A 20 per cent Increase in Drowning Deaths in Victoria in 2016/17

The newly released Victorian Drowning Report for 2016/2017 shows forty-five people (78% male, 12% female) lost their lives to drowning in Victoria during the 2016/17 financial year, a 20% increase on the ten-year average.

The report also reveals a 6% increase in the drowning rate for children aged 0-4 years, a 25% increase for young adults aged 15-24 years, an 18% increase for adults aged 25-44 years and a 45% increase for adults aged 65 years and over, compared to the ten-year average.

Two new inclusions in this year’s report provide further snapshots of drowning in public swimming pools, as well as children drowning in home pools. Both of these issues have been identified as key priority areas for action and will be areas of significant focus in drowning prevention activities for 2017/18, with a need to improve pool barrier requirements and highlight the importance of supervision.

Life Saving Victoria (LSV)’s Principal Research Associate, Dr Bernadette Matthews, compiled the report and says paramedics also attended 54 non-fatal drowning incidents in Victoria during the period, bringing the number of drowning incidents across the state to 99.

“Drownings are shocking to both families of the victims and the public, especially because each drowning could have been prevented,” says Dr Matthews. “Non-fatal drownings gain less attention, but they also have far-reaching effects on families and also on the victims, who may never fully recover. Including all drowning incidents gives a fuller picture and is important in formulating our prevention tactics.”

She says the increase of drowning in older adults is being addressed through the Play it Safe by the Water campaign. Over summer this age group will continue to be targeted with TV, radio and online advertisements, supported with targeted practical water safety programs, for example the Grey Medallion program.

“The most common activity immediately prior to a drowning in 2016/17 was swimming/paddling/ wading, representing 29% of fatal and 26% of non-fatal drowning incidents,” says Dr Matthews. “These figures highlight the importance of all Victorians having the opportunity to learn swimming and water safety skills.”

Alcohol has been a continuing trend in drowning incidents. It was a factor this year in 22% of cases. Notably there has been an average of nine drowning alcohol related deaths each year over the past decade (2006/07 to 2015/16).

In terms of boating-related drownings, the figures showed that in 74% of boating drowning incidents the person was not wearing a life jacket.

Differing from the past two years, the majority of drowning deaths in 2016/17 occurred in inland waterways (42%, 19 drowning deaths as compared to 32% in coastal locations). This is a 48% increase, when we compare to the 10-year average.

“The statistics in the report show there’s still work to be done in educating Victorians on water safety, as well as in showing them safe ways to recreate in and on the water,” says Dr Matthews. “It’s what drives all of us working within the Play it Safe by the Water campaign; we’re all working towards the same aim of saving lives.”

Regional snapshots for Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Hume, Latrobe/Gippsland, Melbourne, Mornington Peninsula, North West, Shepparton, and Warrnambool/South West are available within the Victorian Drowning Report 2016/17, as well as relative risk maps.

Victorian Drowning Report 2016/17 is available to view or download here

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