Tragically, drowning of young children is an all-too common occurrence in Australia with on average 2 children drowning every week. Contributing factors are inadequate supervision, age of children (toddlers aged one to 3 are most at risk) and the variety of water environments that pose a hazard. A young child can drown in only a few inches of water and backyard swimming pools, bathtubs, fishponds, wading pools and even nappy buckets and pet drinking bowls pose risks.
Regardless of other measures, the most important thing you can do to prevent children from drowning is to watch them closely whenever they are near water. You can also remove some of the other risks by following these steps.
In Australia half of all children under 5 years of age who drown do so in backyard pools. If you have a pool, the law stipulates that you must erect a safety fence around it that completely separates the pool from its surroundings. You should check with your local government authority about the particular requirements in your area as laws may differ between States and Territories. Pool fencing must meet Australian standards regarding height, construction and gate features.
If you have a pool, make sure that you observe the following.
Basic water awareness at an early age is very worthwhile and as soon as your child is able he or she should be taught to swim. Remember, though, that skill in swimming won’t necessarily protect against drowning, and all young children, whether they can swim or not, still need adult supervision in or near water.
Beaches, dams, lakes and rivers all pose dangers to children. When going to the beach, closely supervise children and teach them how to recognise the places it is safe to swim (for example between the red and yellow flags, where there are lifeguards etc).
Warn children of the dangers of jumping into dams and lakes, and if you live on a country property, you should ensure that any large bodies of water such as these are fenced off or otherwise inaccessible to children.
Last Reviewed: 13 June 2001