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Paul Reynolds

Year of Award: 2017 Award State: Australian Capital Territory
To reduce incidents of drowning particularly amongst young children - Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Philippines, New Zealand

Summary of Recommendations

Based on my observations and experiences, the following recommendations will be of use when considering methods of reducing incidents of drowning:

  • A standardised National approach to swimming education must be adopted that is reflective of swimming as a life saving measure. Such an approach would: o Ensure children are educated from a young age by competent instructors with a focus on developing the ability to save themselves and their peers in a range of aquatic environments;

-Allow all students to receive adequate instruction, particularly those that may change schools, come from a migrant family or have non-swimming parents who may not understand the importance of swimming lessons;
-Assist children in assessing and mitigating risks, and ideally incorporate nearby aquatic environments, as well as exposing students to those that may only be visited on occasion, such as the coast or inland waterways.

  • A National competency framework must be developed so that all children regardless of language or cultural differences are afforded the same opportunities Australia-wide and are competent swimmers before the end of Primary school. In order to achieve this:

- Funding must be made available for schools to implement this program;
- Consideration must be given to a minimum requirement that all children must attain before graduating from Primary School; and
- Parents must be involved in their child’s swimming so that they are fully cognisant of their child’s swimming strengths and weaknesses so that they can tailor their safety approach around water appropriately.

  • Further work must be undertaken regarding the administration and managing of swimming pools in the home environment, particularly:

- the streamlining of barrier requirements for historically constructed swimming pools;
- the implementation of pool registers; and
- the instruction of CPR and other life saving measures.

The New Zealand model for pool fencing legislation should be considered as the basis for a new Australian Standard.

  • Consideration given to the scale and cost of drowning within Australia, and allocate proportionate funding to tackle the issue. Such funding should be assigned to those organisations that devote time, manpower and expertise to working to reduce drowning and should be free from incumbencies, allowing it to be assigned to areas deemed most appropriate by the organisation.
  • Encourage cooperation and the exchange of information between invested parties, including but not limited to: government bodies, non-government organisations, medical professionals, law enforcement and medical first responders to ensure a strategic and collegiate approach that minimises duplication.
  • Continue to engage in public awareness campaigns in an effort to deliver a meaningful and effective message of prevention. Such campaigns could focus on emerging trends such as:

- Small portable pools in the home environment and the need for greater awareness at the point of sale;
- The need for recent retirees engaging in outdoor pursuits to educate and equip themselves appropriately;
- The delivery of appropriate information to marginalised sections of the community; and
- Consideration given to establishing Life Vest Loan stations in high risk/high volume areas.

  • Investigate the potential to expand the current ICD-10 categorisation regarding cause of death recording in order to allow for multiple causes of death to be attributed to a single death. An expansion of the current categorisation would allow for a more realistic snap shot of the problem on a global scale. In addition, the current standard of not recording the deaths of foreign nationals in the countries in which they drown may lead to significant under reporting and subsequent under estimation of emerging issues. It is also of significant concern that the high rates of suicide by drowning are also not captured within the current reporting framework, leading to a further watering down of the issue and a potential missed opportunity.
  • Continue to remain abreast of new and developing technologies such as the emergence of drones in a lifesaving capacity or the potential to implement technological advancements such as artificially intelligent CCTV systems and coastal geofencing.

 Keywords: Drown, drowning, prevention, advocate, young people, Australia, water safety, pool fencing