Melbourne goes blue for World Drowning Prevention Day

Sunday 25 July was the world’s first World Drowning Prevention Day, and Life Saving Victoria (LSV) marked the occasion by turning several Melbourne landmarks blue to raise awareness of the inaugural event. 

Several landmarks in Melbourne turned blue to mark the inaugural World Drowning Prevention Day.

During the 75th session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly back in April, the UN recognised the seriousness of drowning as a public health issue by passing its first ever Resolution on Global Drowning Prevention and dedicating 25 July each year to raising awareness of this serious issue. 

Ireland and Bangladesh brought the resolution to the UN, which was co-sponsored by 79 countries including Australia, describing drowning as a “serious and neglected health threat” that has caused more than 2.5 million preventable deaths in the past decade. 

The resolution found that more than 90 per cent of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries, with Asia carrying the highest figure of deaths by number, and children and adolescents living in rural areas being the most likely to be impacted. 

The resolution called on all nations to adopt voluntary actions, including: 

  • developing national drowning prevention plans 
  • implementing recommended interventions including barriers, supervision, swim skills, rescue and resuscitation training and boating regulation 
  • introducing water safety, swimming and first aid lessons as part of the school curriculum

    Flinders Street Station illuminated in blue for World Drowning Prevention Day.

The inaugural World Drowning Prevention Day follows the state’s highest number of drowning deaths in over two decades, with 59 people tragically losing their lives on Victorian waterways between July 2020 and June 2021. 

Dr Bernadette Matthews, LSV’s General Manager- Health Promotion and Communications, said World Drowning Prevention Day and the UN’s resolution is a timely reminder of the importance of water safety education and warned Victorians of a potential generation of children who have missed out on their foundational years of swimming literacy. 

“An unintended consequence of COVID-19 restrictions is Victorian children missed about 5 million swimming lessons due to COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, in addition to missed school swimming lessons,” Dr Matthews said. 

To counteract the effects of prolonged periods of missed water safety education on Victorian children, LSV has developed a water safety at home series to keep children engaged with water safety skills. 

The Melbourne Star shining in blue for World Drowning Prevention Day.

“The series provides practical online sessions to keep children actively learning about water safety, CPR, first aid, swimming and the lifesaving nippers from home program,” Dr Matthews said. 

“We also encourage parents, particularly during lockdowns when families are balancing working from home, homeschooling and having young children spending more time at home, to restrict children’s access to water and always keep them within arm’s reach when around water. 

“It takes just 20 seconds for a child to drown in as little as a few centimetres of water, so never leave children alone in the bath and remove potential risks such as buckets filled with water.” 

The UN Resolution on Global Drowning Prevention can be viewed here. 

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