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DROWNINGS DECREASE BUT MORE VIGILANCE REQUIRED

September 24, 2012

There were 31 less drownings across Australia in 2011-12 compared with the previous year but Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has called for more vigilance around local waterways ahead of the summer season.

Mr Chester, who is a founding member of the Parliamentary Friends of Surf Life Saving Group, made the call after attending the release of the latest National Drowning Report in Canberra.

Mr Chester said 284 drownings for the year represented a 1 per cent decrease on the five-year average. However, he said he was disappointed that despite the small decrease in drownings, men were still four and half times more likely to drown than women.

“It is concerning that despite warnings, water education and the hard work of local surf life saving volunteers, there continues to be a serious over-representation of men in drowning statistics,” Mr Chester said.

“Young men in particular need to take more care and not put themselves in dangerous situations or take unnecessary risks around water, especially when alcohol is involved.”

Mr Chester said older people also need to be more careful when participating in water activities.

“People aged 55 and over had the highest number of drowning deaths in the past year, representing 34 per cent of total drownings,” Mr Chester said.

“It’s a reminder to us all that as we get older it’s important you stay healthy and active but it is also critical that people stay within their limits.”

Mr Chester said extra vigilance was required around all forms of water, pointing to the particular risk posed by rivers, creeks and streams in rural areas.

“It is a surprising fact that more people drown in rivers and lakes than at the beach,” Mr Chester said.

“Of the 284 people who drowned across Australia last year, 104 occurred in rivers, creeks and streams with many of these deaths preventable.”

Mr Chester said with the weather slowly warming up, beachgoers should be well aware of warnings from local life savers and always swim between the flags on patrolled beaches.

“There are more than 150,000 surf lifesaving volunteers across the nation and more than 300 clubs,” Mr Chester said.

“They all do a fantastic job in keeping local beaches safe and I urge anyone visiting a patrolled beach this summer to take their advice and swim between the flags.”

Anyone wishing to view the full National Drowning Report should visit www.royallifesaving.com.au