January 20, 2022
Five preventable child drownings drive water safety authorities to issue urgent warning for closer adult supervision

Families encouraged to set designated supervisors over the Australia Day holiday


Kidsafe Victoria and Life Saving Victoria are urging parents and carers to ensure children are actively supervised in or around water this Australia Day holiday in a bid to prevent childhood drownings.

The call comes as Life Saving Victoria statistics reveal five children under the age of 10 have drowned in Victoria since 1 July 2021, including two this summer.

It also follows the recent release of a Coronial finding into the tragic death of a four-year-old boy who died while celebrating his brother’s birthday at a holiday park.

The finding noted the busy and hectic environment of a large gathering created circumstances where the attention of the attending adults had been stretched, distracted or divided.

To help overcome these risks and keep kids safe around water, Kidsafe Victoria General Manager Jason Chambers recommended carers set designated supervisors to ensure there is no confusion about who is keeping watch of children in and around water.

“When there are many adults around it can be easy to assume that someone else is actively supervising the kids around water, when in fact, nobody is,” said Mr Chambers.

“Twenty seconds and a few centimetres of water is all it takes for a toddler to drown. Active adult supervision means keeping them within arm’s reach at all times around water, without any distractions.”

“To help make sure children are actively supervised at all times, we recommend appointing designated supervisors whose role it is to supervise children in and around the pool or other bodies of water. Rotating this role throughout the day ensures everyone gets a chance to enjoy the festivities.”

Reinforcing Mr Chambers’ advice, Life Saving Victoria general manager health promotion and communications Dr Bernadette Matthews said a rise in child drownings during recent years had put the water safety authority on high alert.

In 2020-21, 15 of the state’s 61 fatal drownings were children under the age of 14 years, representing Victoria’s worst child drowning toll in 20 years.

“After a terrible year for child drownings last year, we’re unfortunately once again seeing children overrepresented in the drowning statistics this year, with one in six fatal drownings in Victoria since 1 July 2021 involving kids under the age of 10 years,” Dr Matthews said.

“Every drowning is a tragedy, but especially when they involve children, and our sincere condolences go out to everyone affected by these incidents.

“Drowning should be preventable. We’re concerned people are underestimating the risks around water with fatal consequences.

“While we understand pool closures and missed swimming lessons have affected the swimming skills and confidence of thousands of Victorian children, it’s important to remember that the primary prevention against childhood drowning is active and constant adult supervision around water.

“A child you can’t see is a child in danger. Don’t let a lapse in concentration lead to devastation.”

The organisations have shared their top tips to help keep children safe in and around water.


Water Safety Tips:

  • ● Actively supervise children in and around water at all times. For toddlers, this means having an adult within arms’ reach
  • ● Appoint designated supervisors at BBQs and pool parties whose role it is to supervise the kids in and around the pool. This role can be shared throughout the day so that everyone gets a chance to enjoy the festivities
  • ● Don’t rely on swimming and flotation aids or inflatable pool toys to keep children safe – they are not designed to prevent drowning.
  • ● Ensure your pool barrier is secure and in proper working order
  • ● Ensure no climbable objects are near the barrier e.g. pot plants, chairs, BBQ’s or pool pumps which could allow a child to climb over the barrier
  • ● Never prop the pool gate open, this allows children easy and often unsupervised access to the pool area
  • ● Learn CPR and update your skills regularly
  • ● Be mindful of other potential outdoor water hazards, as toddlers can drown in as little as a few centimetres of water. This including eskys with melted ice, wading/inflatable pools, bathtubs with reachable bath plugs, and ponds

For more information on Kidsafe’s water safety tips and ‘Safe Barriers Save Lives’ pool safety campaign, please visit Kidsafe Victoria’s pool and spa safety website

Visit Life Saving Victoria’s website for information about water safety skills and knowledge maintenance, with or without access to a pool.