Life Saving Victoria is urging Victorians to make the right call by drinking responsibly around water over the busy long weekend, following the tragic drowning of a Melbourne man on the Murray River while on an Australia Day weekend camping trip in 2019.
“The drowning risk is heightened around Australia Day as many people head to the beach, pool, lakes or rivers to celebrate the public holiday and long weekend,” says Life Saving Victoria’s Principal Research Associate Dr Bernadette Matthews.
There have been eight drowning deaths in Victoria since the start of summer (1st December, 2019), which is three less than the five-year average, but on par with the 10-year average. The summer drowning toll for the same period last year (1st December 2018 – 22nd January 2019) was 16.
“A worrying 80 per cent of the drowning deaths in Victoria in the 2018/19 financial year were of males, with many aged between 25 and 44,” says Dr Matthews, “Of the total drowning deaths in that year, 20 per cent involved alcohol or drugs.”
Life Saving Victoria’s Drowning Report 2018/19 showed that typical activities prior to drowning include swimming and unintentional entry into water such as slips, trips and falls.
“In many cases, people who have been drinking make poor decisions about entering the water or they unintentionally slip or fall in,” says Dr Mathews. “Alcohol not only affects your judgement of situations, but also your ability to respond and react.”
Around the water, this means you are more likely to fall and less likely to be able to get yourself out of trouble. Statistics show that over the last decade one in three people who drowned were not intending to be in the water, they slipped or fell in.
Dr Matthews said it’s important to drink responsibly around water and swim with a friend where possible.
“Alcohol affects your swimming ability and judgement of dangerous situations. It’s important to look out for your mates around water, and always have a designated non-drinker who can look out for your safety and respond in case of an emergency,” she says. “Don’t let your mates drink and drown.’’
Find out more about the Make the Right Call drowning prevention program targeting inland waterways: royallifesaving.com.au/programs/maketherightcall.
For beachgoers over Australia Day long weekend, head to beachsfe.org.au or download the BeachSafe app to find additional water safety information and patrolled locations to swim between the red and yellow flags.