Mark Gubanyi

Keep Watch Ambassador and Royal Life Saving Society WA Board Member

Mark Gubanyi standing in front of Royal Life Saving Society bannerMarch 1999, one week before his daughter Kaitlin's 5th birthday, is a moment etched in Mark Gubanyi's mind. It's the day Kaitlin died after drowning in a friend's backyard swimming pool. Her friend's mother had gone inside and left the two children alone in the pool unsupervised.

Mark could have responded to the tragedy in many ways, he chose to take action. "I wrote to the State Coroner wanting to raise the awareness of toddler drownings in WA. Royal Life Saving Society WA came on board with that inquest and gave their evidence. What they spoke about was numbers of toddlers drowning, and they were on the increase. What came out of it was a real awareness for the Keep Watch campaign for prevention of toddler drownings, and I was asked to become an Ambassador."

Keep Watch was first put in place in 1996 to address alarmingly high rates of toddler drowning in our state, and since then we've seen a 50% decrease in these incidents, but with new people entering the parenting journey each year there is much still to be done. Mark says;

"We've driven the message well. I think people are starting to listen to us now and they're being aware that toddlers do die in bodies of water, silently. These deaths are said to be accidents, but to me they're never accidents, they're avoidable tragedies."

Despite a 30% increase in toddler drownings across Australia in 2014/15, WA did relatively well with two drownings involving children aged 0-4, down from eight the previous year, but for Mark two is too many.

"We need to aim for zero! Can we achieve that? Of course we can! We just need to do our job and Keep Watch. Constant adult supervision; and that supervision must be right there with them, not inside looking through a window, but right there."

For him there are three key messages that parents need to take on board. "Every parent and carer of a child needs to learn CPR, because it may not be your child, it may be another child you save. We need to teach our child those water familiarisation skills; Royal Life Saving Society WA has some fantastic classes. And we need to Keep Watch. We can take other things out of the equation, we can take the CPR out, we can take the water familiarisation out, and we run a risk. But when we take the Keep Watch out of it that's when it can't be replaced!"

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