Water Safety and Drowning Prevention

In a bid to help reduce Australia’s increasing drowning toll, Hawkesbury City Council and the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia - NSW Branch have joined forces to help inform the local community about the dangers around local waterways and other water sources.

The Mayor of Hawkesbury, Councillor Barry Calvert said the partnership aims to help prevent possible drownings in future in the Hawkesbury Local Government Area.

Drownings occurred this summer in NSW waterways of all kinds: the Colo, Georges, Hawkesbury and Richmond Rivers, Lake Conjola, Botany Bay, Little and Marley beaches and backyard pools.

In February this year, two male jetskiers drowned in the Hawkesbury River.

“All drownings are tragic and unfortunate events that in many cases could be preventable,” the Mayor said.

“Something needs to be done urgently to save lives, which is why Council is working with the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia - NSW Branch.

“According to the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia, the vast majority of fatal and non-fatal drownings occur in natural and unsupervised water bodies, as people are often go unaware of the potential risks,” Councillor Calvert said.

“Identifying the risks and dangers in our local waterways is an important step towards drowning and injury prevention.

“The appropriate use of life jackets when using recreational watercraft or fishing can also save lives

“Parents and caregivers are also encouraged to be vigilant when supervising their children in the water, whether it is a river, a dam, a pool or even a spa,” he added.

“It’s shocking to realise that ten per cent of drowning deaths nationally this summer occurred in backyard pools, according to the Royal Life Saving Australia’s Summer Drowning Toll, including a 19-month-old toddler.”

Council will review signage at popular swimming spots in the Hawkesbury, including considering signs in languages other than English. This was resolved at a recent Council Meeting on the motion of Councillor Danielle Wheeler and seconded by the Deputy Mayor, Councillor Mary Lyons-Buckett.

Council representatives have also met with the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia - NSW Branch and NSW Police recently about preventing drownings in the Hawkesbury.

Council is also promoting water safety messages through its social media, which includes Facebook posts and sharing NSW Police posts and a sharing a video called ‘Hawkesbury River - River Safety’ produced by the NSW State Emergency Service. The Mayor is also raising the topic on his regular radio segments.

“Council is  seeking feedback from the NSW Government and the Royal Life Saving Society - NSW Branch about how the recommendations from the 2017 ‘Respect the Rivers’ Report can be implemented in the Hawkesbury,” Councillor Calvert said.

“We’re also in discussion with both organisations about the options for installing rescue equipment, running community education events and other opportunities for Council involvement.”

The Royal Life Saving Society - NSW Branch, River Safety Project Officer, Ash Cater said people need to be more aware of the risks when swimming, playing and enjoying water activities.

“The Hawkesbury’s waterways are beautiful and they are obviously an attraction to locals and tourists, however there are dangers such as shifting sands, lack of supervision, unpredictable conditions, inexperienced or weak swimmers, remote locations, and the extra risks for people who are under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

“Our safety messages for the community are simple: never swim alone; wear life jackets when boating, jetskiing or fishing; avoid alcohol or other drugs when you’re around water; and learn CPR and lifesaving skills.

“We’ve been doing a lot to get water safety messages to our multicultural communities as well,” she said.

“We want everyone to be able to access water safety education to help save lives.”

Be aware of the dangers

Rivers, lakes and dams can present many hazardous conditions which are often not visible to the untrained eye.

Currents often change with the tides, river beds are often uneven and crumble with pressure, and objects are often submerged and not visible. Other dangers to be aware of include:

  • Lack of supervision
  • Changing currents
  • Experience and age of swimmer
  • Submerged items such as rocks and logs
  • Varying water depths
  • Crumbling and uneven banks
  • Cold water
  • Waves
  • Watercraft using the waterway
  • Consumption of alcohol or other drugs when swimming or in conjunction with other water activities such as jetskiing or boating.

To download the Respect the River Research Report, for more information about The Royal Life Saving Society of Australia, and water safety facts sheets, visit Royal Life Saving.

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