There was a 17% drop in drowning deaths in Australia in the past year compared to the year prior, according to new data from The Royal Life Saving Society Australia (RLSSA).
However, drowning fatalities for the 2022-23 financial year were still slightly higher than the national 10-year average.
In the 2022-23 financial year, 281 people drowned, compared to 339 the year prior. The national 10-year average is 279 drowning fatalities.
The RLSSA believes drowning deaths increased in recent years as a result of limited swimming lesson access during the pandemic. An estimated 10 million swimming classes were cancelled in Australia during the pandemic.
The report also found that drowning rates were 71% higher for people from disadvantaged areas.
Drowning claimed the lives of 16 children under four in the past year. It’s a 33% decrease on the 10-year national average.
The RLSSA attributed the drop in drowning deaths to the success of recent prevention efforts, such as legislative changes to pool fencing regulations and water safety messaging, targeted towards parents and carers.
The RLSSA said one of its primary concerns was for men.
Men represented 77% of the number of people who died from drowning in the past year.
RLSSA CEO Justin Scarr said: “We urge men to make the right call, and avoid alcohol and drugs around water, check the conditions and avoid over-estimation of swimming ability.”
The RLSSA said another concern was for older adults.
57% of those who drowned were aged over 45-years-old.
“Older adults should understand the potential impacts of other medical conditions and medications on water activities.”
Australia’s Minister for Aged Care and Sport, Anika Wells, emphasised the need to prioritise water safety ahead of an expected hot summer.
Wells suggested “simple precautions” like medical check-ups “to ensure you are swim fit, or going to the local swimming pool to refresh your skills,” for any uncertain swimmers.