More than 40 people drowned in Victoria in the last financial year, with males four times more likely to drown than females.
Life Saving Victoria has released its annual drowning report, showing a 20 per cent increase in drowning deaths compared to the ten-year average.
Forty-five people lost their lives in Victoria in the 2016-2017 financial year, along with 54 other non-fatal drowning incidents paramedics attended.
The majority of deaths occurred in inland waterways, such as lakes, dams, rivers and creeks, driven by an increase in drowning in lakes. Eight people lost their lives in lakes in 2016-2017, compared to an average of three per year over the past decade.
Life Saving Victoria principal research associate Dr Bernadette Matthews said the report showed there was still work to be done in educating people on water safety.
“Drownings are shocking to both families of the victims and the public, especially because each drowning could have been prevented,” she said.
Of the 45 deaths, 35 were males and four were aged four years and under.
Adults aged 65 years and older accounted for the biggest increase in drowning deaths, with a 45 per cent increase in the drowning rate, compared to the ten-year average.
Alcohol continues to be a common factor in drowning incidents, representing 20% of the drowning toll each year. Look out for your mates - alcohol & water activities don't mix! For more: https://t.co/fXvIz6fWSW#watersafetyweek2017#VictorianDrowningReport2017pic.twitter.com/lYMPQM0ABA— Life Saving Victoria (@LifeSavingVic) December 7, 2017
“The most common activity immediately prior to a drowning in 2016-2017 was swimming/paddling/wading, representing 29 per cent of fatal and 26 per cent of non-fatal drowning incidents,” Dr Matthews said.
“These figures highlight the importance of all Victorians having the opportunity to learn swimming and water safety skills.”
The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter toured northern Victoria on Wednesday, delivering water safety messages to schools.
Students from both Kennington Primary School and Swan Hill North Primary School took part in the water safety education program.
Life Saving Victoria operations manager Greg Scott said the sessions aimed to raise awareness around the need to play it safe by the water and to exercise caution around local waterways over the holiday season.
“It is essential that children understand that even though waterways look inviting, they pose many dangers,” he said.
“If we’re able to get our safety messages through to the children, that’s less lives at risk, and makes our trip well worthwhile.”