Why Swimming & Water Safety Is Important

Knowledge of swimming and water safety can reduce a child's drowning risk and provide them with skills that may one day save a life. This has led the Victorian Government to implement the Swimming in Schools Initiative which supports the delivery of quality swimming and water safety education.

Why are school-run Survival Swimming, Water Safety and Lifesaving programs so important?

Every Victorian child should have the opportunity to learn vital survival swimming and water safety skills regardless of location, physical capability, cultural background and socio-economic circumstances.

The school setting is the ideal environment for the provision of vital lifesaving skills, so that no child misses out.

Drowning is a leading cause of death among children aged 0-14 years. Globally, there are over 140,000 child-drowning deaths annually. From 1 July 2000 to 30 June 2018, there were almost 1,000 child-drowning incidents in Victoria (103 fatal drownings, 287 Emergency Department presentations, and 609 hospital admissions).

Knowledge of survival swimming and basic water safety skills can significantly reduce the risk of drowning, enhance community safety and build resilient children.

    The aims of school-run swimming, water safety and lifesaving programs should be that:

  • Children will learn the core survival swimming skills as a minimum, preparing them for unexpected entry into (open) water.

  • Children will learn personal safety when it comes to assisting someone in trouble.

  • Children will learn a valuable skill for life.

  • Children will increase their self-awareness, good decision making and leadership capabilities.

  • Children will be empowered to take personal responsibility for their actions.

  • Children will become the influencers to keep family and friends safe.

Swimming and water safety skills have also been found to provide health benefits for children, including social, psychological and physical wellbeing.

The Victorian Water Safety Certificate, a State Government initiative, details specific competencies that each student should achieve by the time they leave primary school. The competencies focus on water safety knowledge, rescue skills, survival sequences and the ability to swim a continuous distance of 50 metres.

Between 1st July 2018 and 30th June 2019, 276 people lost their lives to drowning in Australia. Royal Life Saving estimate a further 584 people experienced a non-fatal drowning incident.

    Some of the trends in 2018/19 include

  • The total number of drowning deaths over the past year increased by 10% on the previous year

  • The hottest summer on record led to a 17% increase in summer drowning deaths when compared with the 10-year average

  • Rivers accounted for 29% of all drowning deaths, more than any other location

  • There was a 39% increase in multiple fatality events, that is multiple people drowning in one incident, compared with the 10-year average

Every year, Royal Life Saving produces a National Drowning Report. This report examines the factors that contribute to drowning deaths in Australia by examining who, where, when and how people have drowned in Australian waterways over the last year. Royal Life Saving has produced a National Drowning Report every year since 1995.

Tragically, 56 people in Victoria lost their lives to drowning this year. It was the state’s highest annual drowning toll in more than two decades and 17 more than the average number of drowning incidents in Victoria over the past 10 years (2008/09-2017/18). This figure represents a significant rise in the number of families coming home from a day on or around the water to live with the unfathomable reality of a lost loved one. The fatal drowning rate stands out for being the highest in 14 years; 38% higher than last year and a 29% increase on the 10-year average. - Life Saving Victoria CEO, Dr Nigel Taylor

    Some of the trends in 2018/19 include

  • 18% of drowning deaths in 2018/19 were of people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities.

  • Unintentional water entry (including slips/trips/falls and attempting a rescue) accounted for 46% (26) of fatal drowning incidents this year. This is double that of the past decade with an average of 13 (33%)

  • Males continue to be overrepresented in the drowning statistics and are four times more likely to drown than females

A detailed summary of drowning incidents in Victoria is produced each year. These reports provide information and statistics about the people who drowned in Victorian waterways each year and the activities they were undertaking at the time.