A recently released Royal Life Saving Australia report has found that 27 per cent of drowning deaths in Australia over the last ten years involved someone born overseas.
Between the 2005/6 and 2014/15 financial years 762 people born overseas drowned in Australia, with adults comprising 97 per cent of those who drowned. Eighty-six per cent were men, with people born in Taiwan, South Korea, and Ireland found to have the highest risk of drowning.
“People who migrate to, or holiday in, Australia often don’t possess water safety knowledge that mainstream, settled Australians might take for granted,” says LSV Manager – Multicultural Projects, David Holland.
“Water being a moving, rather than static body, clothing being prohibitive to floating, and weather conditions affecting open water conditions are realities that many migrants do not understand”
“On top of this, the role of lifesavers, swimming between the flags, and rip current awareness are completely new concepts that migrants and tourists rarely arrive with knowledge of. When you add-in lower swimming ability and a low priority placed upon water safety, it can be a fatal mix.”
In Victoria, slightly fewer overseas born individuals drowned in the ten-year period than the national trend, with people born overseas representing 18 per cent of drowning deaths. However, this comes with the important caveat that country of birth was unknown in 61.9 per cent of drowning cases in Victoria, representing a large data-gap.
“When the data is not reported, we obviously don’t know the answer – but it is possible that this number is much higher,” says Holland.
Life Saving Victoria leads the trend on multicultural water safety education, delivering education courses to 16,500 multicultural participants last year alone. The LSV Multicultural Department also facilitated the attainment of qualifications in Provide First Aid, Pool Lifeguard, and, Bronze Medallion courses for 150 individuals, which led to the aquatic industry employment of nearly 60.
“We’ve got some great work behind us, but this must continue in order to educate and keep-safe the many tourists and migrants constantly arriving in Victoria” says Holland.