The 2003 National Drowning Report prepared by Royal Life Saving Society Australia shows that drowning deaths have fallen by 15 percent compared to the five-year average.
250 people drowned in Australian waters between 1 July 2002 and 30 June 2003.
The Report shows that the largest number of deaths occurred in river/ocean/harbour locations, with 110 deaths. Activities people were undertaking in these locations at the time were generally fishing, walking or playing near water, boating, diving and swimming.
From the Report, a disturbing statistic has emerged in the older age groups. There are decreases in all the reported age groups compared to the five year average figures, with the exception of the 45-54 year age group, which remained the same, and the 55-64 year age group which had 40 drowning deaths, an increase of 48% compared to the five year average.
Due to the ageing of the baby boomer generation, the number of people in this age group will continue to increase, and the age group will continue to be an area of major concern unless action is taken.
Positive trends can be seen with decreases below the five year average in the 0-5 years (35 deaths), 6-14 years (11 deaths),15-24 years (32 deaths), 35-44 years (31 deaths), and the 65+ year age group (30 deaths). In this period, 10 reported deaths were unable to have their age confirmed.
In the 0-5 age group, 35 children drowned. This figure is a decrease from the 2002 figure of 44 drowning deaths, and a decrease of 39% on the five year average.
Wandering away or falls were the cause in 78% of drowning deaths in the 0-5 year age group. Of major concern is the fact that some children were bathing or swimming when the drowning occurred, indicating that supervision had lapsed at the time.
The number of men drowning is of continuing concern, with 80% of all drowning victims in Australia being male. Educating Australian men to modify high-risk behaviour is a continuing task of Royal Life Saving.
The complete 2003 National Drowning Report is available for viewing at the website of the Royal Life Saving Society Australia.