A Plea From Royal Life Saving Australia as Summer Drowning Surge

Stay Safe Around Water

Article heading image for A Plea From Royal Life Saving Australia as Summer Drowning Surge

A record-breaking summer for drowning deaths last year has prompted an urgent warning from the Royal Life Saving Society – Australia for people to be water safety conscious in, on, and around water over the summer break.

In 20 years of fatal drowning data, last summer (2021/22) had the highest number of deaths on record, with 145 people drowning across Australia.

More than a quarter of those who died were more than an hour away from home at the time.

    • A total of 738 people have drowned in NSW during the summer months in the past 20 years
    • Last summer, 55 people drowned in NSW, the highest on record
    • Leading location for drowning during the summer are rivers (29%) followed by beaches (24%)

Royal Life Saving Chief Executive Officer Justin Scarr said the week between Christmas and 2nd January was the deadliest period for drowning deaths.

“The summer holidays are the time when we all like to catch up with friends and family and unwind, but sadly it’s also the peak period for drowning, with too many people not making it home after a day in, on, or around the water,” Mr Scarr said.

“Men particularly need to leave their alcohol consumption until after they’re out of the water. Alcohol was present in more than a quarter of drowning deaths last summer so we’re asking everyone to stay off the beers until they’re back on dry land.

“Tragically that period between Christmas and 2nd January is when the most people drown. While we all need to relax, it is critically important that an adult is actively supervising children at all times if you are near water, whether it is an inflatable pool, a backyard pool, a dam, river, beach or lake.

“With heatwaves, and more rain forecast be aware of children around water, especially children playing in and around flooded waterways and drains.

“Children can drown in only 3cm of water, silently within just 20 seconds. Keep Watch and keep children within arm’s reach.


“Be aware that your favourite spot might have changed significantly since you last visited, given all the rain we’ve had this year. Sandbanks can move, riverbanks can be destabilised, and flood debris is a significant problem in many places across Australia, and will continue to be for some months.

“Many rivers, lakes and dams have more water than in previous years and with lots of water moving downstream, especially after flooding. It’s important not to let children play or swim in floodwater.

“We want everyone to have a great time around the water, and go home safely at the end of the day.”

If you’re boating, fishing or kayaking, make sure you wear a lifejacket that meets the current Australian Standard and fits properly.

Royal Life Saving wants everyone to enjoy the water safely, but to prepare and brush up on safety precautions, especially in unfamiliar locations.

Wherever you are in Australia, these are our top five tips to enjoy the water safely this summer:

  • Always supervise children around water
  • Avoid alcohol around water
  • Wear a lifejacket when boating and fishing
  • Know the conditions
  • Avoid going alone

15 December 2022

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