THE need to refocus efforts on preventing drowning towards older people has been highlighted by the 2008-2020 Australian Water Safety Strategy study.
This comes as the so-called baby boomers continue to make up an increasing proportion of Australia’s population, with the Mornington Peninsula having the second highest proportion of older residents in the state.
The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health study found that the introduction of pool fencing legislation and associated enforcement had helped reduce drownings, especially among children, as had legislation requiring boaters to wear life jackets.
Drownings in Tasmania, South Australia, and New South Wales reduced the most overall, while Queensland halved the rate of child drowning.
“Victoria had the lowest drowning rate at the baseline, and they lowered that further,” lead author Royal Life Saving Society – Australia CEO, Justin Scarr said.
“This may be due, in part, to legislative changes to mandate lifejackets on small boats, which was found to have a significant impact in reducing drownings.”
Life Saving Victoria’s Dr Bernadette Matthews said 44 people drowned on the peninsula between 2010 and 2020. The loss of the 36 men and eight women made up about 11 per cent of fatal drownings in Victoria in that time. The most affected age group was 25-44 years with 18 drownings. In 35 per cent of the drownings, the person lived on the peninsula.
Peninsula lifesavers were busy, being involved in 63 of the state’s 602 rescues in the 2020-21 season and 124 rescues the previous season.
“With Victoria having experienced one of its deadliest drowning tolls in 2020-21, with 55 people drowning since 1 July 2020, it is a timely reminder to always exercise caution when planning a day at a waterway,” Portsea Portsea Surf Life Saving Club president Matthew Mahon said.
“Be aware and prepared for conditions by planning your day, including checking the weather and risks, never swimming alone, and swimming between the red and yellow flags at a patrolled beach wherever possible.”
The opening of the Yawa Aquatic Centre at Rosebud on 25 June is timely.
“During the off-season, we strongly encourage swimmers on the peninsula to consider if a public pool is their safest option until lifesavers put up the red and yellow flags next season,” Mr Mahon said.
“While we remain on standby, we’re not actively conducting lifesaving patrols so help may be a while away should you find yourself in trouble.
He said Mornington Peninsula Shire’s Yawa aquatic centre at Rosebud, scheduled to open later this month, “will be a great place to swim until we are back on the beaches”.