In the last six months, 13 children aged 0-14 fatally drowned in Victoria: that’s nine more than the five-year annual Victorian average and the highest number of drowning deaths in this age group in over 20 years (since 1999/2000).
“In 2020, children missed out on many things, but something potentially life threatening is the estimated 145,000 swimming lessons missed per week during COVID restrictions,” said Dr Bernadette Matthews, LSV’s Principal Research Associate.
“We’re urging parents and caregivers to re-enrol children in swimming lessons and be extra vigilant about supervising children this summer,” Dr Matthews said. “That means keeping children 0-5 within arm’s reach and those ten and under always within sight.”
The total number of drowning deaths this financial year (from July 1, 2020) is 42. Sadly, this already surpasses last year’s total of 34 drowning deaths and we still have 5 months to go.
“Our thoughts go out to all of the families and friends of those who lost their lives to drowning following these tragic incidents,” Dr Matthews said. “Drowning can be silent and happen with only a small lapse in supervision – 20 seconds is all it takes for a child to drown.”
Of all reported fatal drowning incidents this financial year, 19% (8) were 0-4 years, with 12% (5) aged between 5-14 years. Of the 13 children aged 0-14 years that drowned, 7 occurred in or around the home environment (e.g., in the bath, pool, pond, or dam) and 6 occurred in open waterways or a publicly accessible pool.
To reintroduce children to swimming and to an open water environment, a great place to start is to spend time at home watching the 8 online videos made as part of the virtual Open Water Learning Experience (OWLE) and Swimming @Home sessions, as well as resources found at www.watersafety.vic.gov.au.
Enrol your children in swimming lessons and ask their school about the Victorian Water Safety Certificate curriculum requirements https://lsv.com.au/toolkit/.
For water safety in an open water environment, your local lifesaving club has plenty of opportunities in Nippers, as well as for older children (15+) to gain their Bronze Certificate or Surf Rescue Certificate.
“Please put swimming lessons on your back-to-school checklist,” said Dr Matthews. “Swimming is the only sport they will learn that also has the ability to save their life.”