Water safety

Position

The Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries supports the enjoyment of water-based sport and recreation activities in a safe manner.

The Department supports the Australian Water Safety Council’s Australian Water Safety Strategy 2016-2020 with its purpose to work collaboratively with stakeholders and achieve an aspirational goal of reducing drowning deaths by 50% by 2020. 

Purpose

Western Australians have for a long time enjoyed being physically active in a broad range of water-based activities, whether being along our pristine coastline, inland waterways and/or public and private swimming pools. The Department is aware of the risks associated with water-based activities and is committed to reducing the incidence of drowning whilst not restricting people’s participation.  

Issues

  • On average 34 drowning deaths occur in Western Australia each year. In 2014/15, 39 drowning deaths occurred, which is equivalent to 14% of drowning deaths across Australia.  
  • The majority of coastal drowning deaths in WA occur in regional or remote areas where lifesavers are not present.
  • The majority of inland waterway drowning deaths occur in rivers, creeks and streams.
  • Drowning deaths are more prevalent amongst children aged 0-14 years, young people aged 15-24 years, males aged 25-44 and people aged 65 years and over.
  • High-risk locations include beaches and ocean/harbour environments and inland waterways such as rivers, creeks and streams.
  • In 2015, 36% of drownings occurred when either using watercraft immediately prior (e.g. boating) or as a result of falls into water (e.g. rock fishing).
  • Drowning challenges include: alcohol and drug-related, watercraft and recreational activities, high-risk populations (Chinese, Indian, South Korean and Malaysian communities) and disaster and extreme weather. 

Background

Drowning can occur in a number of settings such as in the home, at beaches, in public and private swimming pools, and when people undertake a broad range of water-based activities such as swimming, diving, fishing and boating.

Based on a ten-year average between 2002/03 to 2013/14 in WA there were on average 34 drowning deaths per year. The rate of drowning deaths over this period is 1.48 per 100,000 populations which is higher than the national average of 1.33 per 100,000 populations. Males represent 80% of drowning deaths. Drowning accidents are largely due to ignorance or lack of skill and are preventable.

36% of drowning deaths across Australia in 2015 occurred either using watercraft immediately prior (e.g. boating) or as a result of falls into water (e.g. rock fishing). The Department's focus is on preventing drownings within the sport and recreation setting. 

The annual release of the Royal Life Saving Society – Australia’s National Drowning Report and Surf Life Saving WA’s BeachSAFE Report provides insights into the prevalence of drowning in Western Australia.  

Implementation

The Department works collaboratively with a broad range of industry stakeholders to deliver water-based safety strategies and programs that:

  • develops individual’s physical skills and abilities;
  • improves the public’s awareness of water safety; and
  • promotes the importance of aquatic education.