Australian Coroner Caitlin English released findings this week recommending the Victorian state government implement mandatory swimming lessons in primary schools after the drowning death of a nine year old Bailey Patman on January 19, 2012.
Bailey Patman was found lying face down in the water at Seaford Beach after splashing about in the shallows with his friends.
Bailey’s sister Melanie Allan describes her brother as an “energetic, amazing person” with a “contagious smile”. “I would never wish another child to go through what Bailey would’ve gone through. “I think that if swimming lessons were compulsory other families could avoid the tragedy of losing a child to drowning,” Ms Allan said.
“Whilst there has been a widespread focus on the importance of adult supervision of children around water, a lack of swimming ability among children contributes to an increased risk of drowning,” the findings said.
A recent study by Life Saving Victoria (LSV) revealed that up to 60 percent of Victorian children finishing elementary school could not swim to a “basic standard”.
Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett said the government would take on board the recommendations put forward by the coroner.
A UNICEF report from 2012 reveals that drowning is a leading cause of child death in Asia. The report – from UNICEF’s Office of Research and The Alliance for Safe Children (TASC) – found that in these countries one of every four child deaths among children between 1 and 4 years old is due to drowning. Yet the report also points to highly effective and cost-efficient programmes to reduce drowning deaths, programmes that are not being sufficiently embraced.
One program, in Bangladesh, showed a remarkable 80 per cent reduction in drowning deaths among children attending village crèches, reinforcing the many benefits of early childhood education. Another program found that drowning death rates were reduced by more than 90 per cent among children 4 years and older who learnt survival swimming skills.
Make sure all of your child’s carers know how to swim, are aware of water safety hazards and have been trained in CPR. It only takes 30 seconds for a child to silently drown. Children must be constantly supervised by a responsible adult (not an older sibling) who can provide them with their full attention while swimming – that means putting down the phone and not drinking alcohol.
For more information on children’s water safety take a look at the Kids Alive Water Safety Program. For information on what to look for in a good swim school take a look at the Swim Australia website.
Thanks to Trish Hartman for the great photo.
Maree has over five years of experience in Occupational Health and Safety and in the development of safety standards, training workshops and improvement initiatives. She is passionate about health, safety and education. Maree, a mother of two children, has a Advanced Diploma in OHS and will be graduating soon with a B.Sc. (HSE) from Australia.