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 2020 and 30th June 2021, 294 people lost their lives to drowning in Australia. Royal Life Saving estimate a further 674 people experienced a non-fatal drowning incident.

    Some of the key trends in 2020/21 included:

  • Drowning deaths increased by 20% on the previous year

  • People aged 25 to 34 years accounted for 17% of the total number of deaths, the most of any age group

  • Rivers remain the leading location for drowning with deaths increasing by 3% compared with the 10-year average

  • Tragically, deaths among children aged 0-4 years increased by 9% compared with the 10-year average and 108% compared with last year

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, in the 2019/20 financial year, 34 people in Victoria lost their lives to drowning, which is a 23% decrease from the 10-year average.

    Some of the key trends in 2019/20 included:

  • 34 fatal drowning incidents is 6 fewer than the average number of drowning incidents in Victoria over the past 10 years (2009/10–2018/19).

  • This year the number of overall drowning incidents was 6% below the 10-year average, with 134 incidents, including 34 fatal and 100 non-fatal drownings.

  • There were no drowning deaths of children aged 0-4 years for the first time in 20 years, however almost one-third of non-fatal incidents involved children in this group.

  • Half of all drowning deaths were a result of unintentional water entry (i.e. slips/trips/falls), which highlights the importance of learning survival swimming and water safety skills.

  • Residents of metropolitan Melbourne were overrepresented in the statistics in 2019/20 compared to those in regional Victoria, which is a reversal of recent trends.

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.