Be river safe and ready for Australia Day

21 January 2016
With Australia Day just around the corner many families and groups of friends will gather by the Swan River to celebrate. However, what many won’t realise is that the river contains a number of hidden dangers and poses a significant drowning risk. Recent research from the Royal Life Saving Society shows that WA rivers have claimed the lives of 78 people since 1 July 2002. Rivers and other inland waterway locations account for more drownings than our beaches and swimming pools, while the Swan River is the 4th most dangerous black spot for drowning in Australia.

Royal Life Saving Society WA CEO, Peter Leaversuch says “We must Respect The River. Although our rivers are beautiful, more people drown in rivers than anywhere else. The dangers are often lurking below the surface, you simply can’t see ice cold water, snags like tree branches or strong currents but they can be lethal. In order to address this issue Royal Life Saving Society WA has been holding a Swim and Survive on the Swan program at the Ascot Kayak Club for children these schools holidays. The aim of the program is to raise awareness of the potential dangers present in the river environment, and teach children essential swimming and lifesaving skills via our Bronze Medallion program.

Mum, Danae Turner, whose children Kaila (16) and Lochlan (14)  have been taking part in the program this week, says it's been amazing for them. "My kids love to swim and get involved in water activities and I was worried they didn't have the skills to get themselves or their friends out of trouble if they needed to. This program has made a big difference; they've been able to socialise and learn new skills that makes me more confident about them taking part in activities not only in the river but in the pool and at the beach as well. I'd like to really thank Royal Life Saving for providing this program because we wouldn't have been able to afford to do it otherwise."

Federal Member for Swan, Steve Irons is supportive of the program, “The electorate of Swan is bordered by the river and residents and visitors to the area spend much of their time around it. With the warmer months upon us it is important that children learn essential swimming and lifesaving skills to ensure that safety is their number one priority.”  Mr Irons had a drowning experience of a his own a few years ago, getting stuck under an upturned catamaran at Matilda Bay, so is fully aware of the potential drowning risks present in the river environment.  

Ahead of Australia Day it’s also important for the community to be aware that alcohol related drownings account for over a third (40%) of all river drowning deaths in Western Australia.  Mr Irons says “As Australia Day celebrations take place, it is important for people to remember to take extra care, and I encourage you to remember that alcohol and water based activities don’t mix well.”

Royal Life Saving Society WA CEO Peter Leaversuch says “We are asking people to follow four simple steps to reduce their drowning risk in rivers: wear a lifejacket, avoid alcohol around water, never swim alone and learn how to save a life.” We encourage all West Australians to enjoy the river safely this Australia Day and throughout the summer.

Any interested local organisations, such as Sea Scouts, Land Scouts, and Youth groups, who would like to take part in a Swim and Survive on the Swan program throughout the summer can contact our office on 9383 8200, for further information.