Drowning risk for children five times higher in regional, remote WA than metropolitan areas, report finds
Children living in remote and regional areas of Western Australia are five times more likely to drown than their metropolitan counterparts, a new report has revealed.
In the past decade, 18 children have died and 85 have been taken to hospital due to drowning incidents in Western Australia, according to a WA Royal Life Saving (RLS) report.
The report focused on drowning incidents since 2005 involving children aged from five to 14 years of age.
The figures show a 30 per cent increase in the number of non-fatal drowning incidents but a 20 per cent decrease in the number of fatal drownings in that age group.
RLS senior manager Lauren Nimmo said remote and regional areas presented unique risks.
Often their parents don't possess high levels of swimming ability or water safety knowledge.
RLS senior manager Lauren Nimmo
"We see children have access to a larger number of aquatic locations in regional and remote areas of Western Australia, particularly inland waterways locations such as rivers, creeks and dams, which aren't supervised or lifeguarded like our public swimming pools and beaches," she said.
"That's one of the reasons that we're more likely to see children drown in one of these [remote] areas.
"We also see that Aboriginal children and children from culturally linguistically diverse backgrounds do drown at a much higher rate than other Western Australian children.
"One of the reasons is that a lot of these children actually miss out on participating [in] traditional swimming and water safety programs.
"Often their parents don't possess high levels of swimming ability or water safety knowledge."
Ms Nimmo said parents should be learning to swim along with their children.
"Royal Life Saving is committed over the coming years to teaching every child to swim and survive and to ensure that these high risk groups of children have access to these types of programs," she said.
The report shows 44 per cent of drowning incidents are likely to happen in a river or creek, 28 per cent are likely to happen in a bathtub and 22 per cent are likely to happen at a dam.
Western Australia has the fourth-highest rate in Australia of drowning incidents for children from the ages of five to 14.
Ms Nimmo said the figures showed that messages on how to prevent drowning, such as fencing around pools and participating in swimming lessons, is getting through.
"We have seen some great success over the years and we are aiming to teach 200,000 children in Western Australia to swim and survive over the next 12 months however there's obviously still room for improvement," she said.
"Children's personal survival skills and water safety is probably the most important investment that the community can make to reducing drownings, and everyone plays a role in ensuring that children are safe around the water.
"From parents to teachers to swim schools and communities more broadly we all need to work together to eliminate childhood drowning."