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Tragically 173 people lost their lives on the Australian Coast during the 2017-18 period. Of these 110 of these were due to drowning.

Speaking at today’s release of the National Coastal Safety Report, SLSA President Graham Ford AM recognised the 173 lives that were lost due to the unpredictability of our oceans, 110 of these as a result of drowning.

“We need to acknowledge that these are not just numbers – but are people and could be someone we know or love.

“I would also like to recognise the 10,249 rescues that were performed by our volunteer surf lifesavers. Without these significant efforts there would have been an additional 512 coastal and ocean drowning deaths, Mr Ford said.

Of the coastal drowning deaths, men continue to be over-represented with 80% of all coastal drowning fatalities.

Swimming/wading is the most common activity preceding a drowning death (32%), with boating and snorkelling being the top three activities at the time of drowning.

The 2017-18 summer period from December to February resulted in 52 coastal drowning deaths, almost half (47%) of all coastal drowning deaths for the year and was also the highest since recording commenced in 2004.

With 31% of coastal drowning deaths occurring within 1km of a lifesaving service and almost half (45%) of incidents happening further than 5km from a lifesaving service, the need for coastal visitors to look for a patrolled location is a key recommendation.

‘Surf lifesavers can’t be everywhere, and too often people think they can identify a rip current or other hazards but get it wrong. By finding a patrolled location you have some comfort knowing that someone else is looking out for you.’ Mr Ford said.

The National Coastal Safety Report 2018 highlights many factors relating to participation, behaviour, the services provided by the organisation through to a detailed analysis on coastal drowning deaths.

With over 11,500 beaches and at least 300 million visitations to our coast each year the need for great community awareness, understanding and ownership of being safe on, in and around our waters is more critical than ever.

Recent research into non-fatal coastal incidents has shown for each drowning death on the coast, there is on average one non-fatal incident that requires hospitalisation.

The National Coastal Safety Report2018 highlights additional key findings including:

  • 42% of coastal drowning deaths occurred at beaches, with 28% occurring offshore.
  • 80% of drowning deaths are male, with 20% female.
  • New South Wales and Victoria had an increase in drowning fatalities on the previous year, while all other states showed a decline or had the same number.
  • The highest rate of fatality by age group was 40-44, followed by 20-24 years of age.
  • 19% of all drowning incidents involved alcohol or drugs.
  • 10,249 rescues were performed by surf lifesavers or lifeguards.
  • Only 38% of people say they swim at patrolled beaches during patrolled times.
  • In all activities many people advise it is reasonable to consume alcohol prior to participation.

Surf Life Saving Australia is asking the public to take precautions when recreating in coastal areas this summer or at any time when visiting the coast:

  • Where possible, swim at a patrolled beach, between the red and yellow flags
  • Obey the safety signs at the beach
  • Learn how to identify a rip current and look for rip currents before deciding where to swim
  • If you’re not sure, ask a lifesaver about the beach conditions
  • Wear a lifejacket while boating, rock fishing or paddling
  • Don’t go into or on the ocean during severe weather warnings
  • Take personal responsibility, think twice and assess your safety before entering the water
  • Supervise children at all times in, on and around water.

Surf Life Saving Australia remains committed to its vision of zero preventable deaths. Awareness campaigns, education programs, joint Federal Government initiatives and community-driven activities are crucial Surf Life Saving initiatives for the reduction of coastal drowning deaths.

You can read the full report here.

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