Australians losing vital swimming skills
DESPITE our reputation for living at the beach, two-thirds of Australians say they could not swim 50m in the surf without stopping, a shocking Surf Lifesaving Australia report reveals, and most who claim to be able spot killer rips get it dangerously wrong.
Coastal waters and the ocean claimed 110 lives across the nation last financial year, including 23 in Queensland, the National Coastal Safety Report reveals.
At greatest risk in Queensland were swimmers aged 25-34 and boaties aged 60-64, the report found, with a shocking 83 per cent of deaths being men.
The report comes just a fortnight after the State Government announced it would be introducing vital swimming and water safety lessons in schools following News Queensland's Save our Schoolkids campaign.
Surf Lifesaving Australia's coastal research and safety manager Shane Daw said almost one in five deaths were linked to alcohol or drug use, and a worrying 31 per cent of all drownings had happened within 1km of patrolled areas.
He said the shocking figures suggest a desperate need to change the culture so water and drinking don't mix, and swimmers and boaties realise the impact even a small amount of alcohol could have on their chances in an emergency.
It was also worrying so many deaths - 83 per cent in Queensland - were men, Mr Daw said.
As well as the 45 per cent of adults who are weak swimmers or who say they can't swim in the ocean, the report also highlights potentially dangerous overconfidence, with Mr Daw saying two out of three beachgoers who claimed to be able to spot rip currents got it wrong.
Lifesavers and lifeguards performed 10,249 rescues across the country last financial year and 2841 in Queensland.
Without the efforts of volunteer surf lifesavers, an additional 512 lives would have been lost, the report says.
Education Minister Grace Grace announced last month that all state primary students will be taught vital swimming and survival skills as part of an Australian-first program to start in schools next year, after the Save Our Schoolkids campaign which revealed a stark decline in swimming ability.
Under the plan to make Queensland the "Water Safe State", students at all state primary schools would now have a water safety and/or learn to swim program from 2019.
The Queensland Government will commit $3.68 million annually - an increase of $2.18 million per year - to expand swim programs, which will comply with national standards set by the Australian Water Safety Council.