New report on child drowning

8 October 2015

Report finds WA's regional children at greater risk of drowning

Drowning remains one of the leading causes of preventable death in children, and reducing childhood drowning remains a worldwide challenge.

A new report has been released today by the Royal Life Saving Society WA, on drowning in Western Australian children aged 5-14 years.

The report, funded by the Department of Health WA, reveals that over the past ten years 18 children aged 5-14 years lost their life as a result of drowning, which is the lowest rate of any age group in our state. However, there's been a 30% increase in the number of non-fatal drowning incidents with 85 children hospitalised following a non- fatal drowning incident over the past ten years.

The report revealed that males were three times more likely to drown than females, and that children were five times more likely to drown in regional and remote areas of WA than in the Perth metropolitan area. Children were also more likely to drown while swimming at inland waterway locations such as rivers, creeks and dams.

Royal Life Saving WA's Senior Manager Health Promotion & Research, Lauren Nimmo, says "drowning affects all communities and all regions in our state, and we need to ensure that all children have access to ongoing swimming and water safety programs."

The report also revealed that Aboriginal children and children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds were at a much higher risk of drowning, many of whom miss out on traditional swimming and water safety programs.

Miss Nimmo says "Royal Life Saving is committed to teaching every child to Swim & Survive, and we recognise that this task is all the more important given WA's climate and lifestyle that encourages so much activity in and on the water. The challenge we face is to ensure each new generation acquires these skills, and no-one misses out.

Currently some children from diverse cultural backgrounds, disadvantaged circumstances and regional areas are not having this opportunity. Teaching children personal survival skills and water safety is the most important investment the community can make to reducing drowning, and has proven to be effective, with children now the least likely of all age groups to drown."

This year Royal Life Saving WA, with support from Principal Partner BHP Billiton and the Department of Sport and Recreation, is aiming to teach over 200,000 Western Australian children to swim and survive, to ensure that they are not only taught 'how' to swim but also 'when and where' to do so safely.

To enrol your child in a Swim and Survive program find your local Endorsed Swim School here.