How to turn the tide on the drowning toll

We have watched in dismay this summer as the tragic tally of drownings climbs higher.

The death of little Henry Tran, ten days after he was pulled from a backyard pond in Sydney, brings the NSW toll to 20.

Even more tragic is that Henry is the fifth toddler to drown in a water-related incident in NSW since mid-December.

Closer to home, we have been unable to obtain an update on the condition of a two-year-old boy who was pulled from a pool at Nowra Hill on Monday, but our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.

The Royal Life Saving Society is at a loss to explain this spike in drowning deaths this year, which it has described as "unprecedented".

The drownings have occurred in the surf, in rivers and in pools and have affected people across all ages and swimming abilities. 

There has been much publicity in recent years about beach safety and the dangers of rips.

While even a good swimmer can find themselves in trouble when swept into a rip, too often we hear that the victims are overseas visitors who see only the sparkling water, and not the danger that lies within it.

In rivers, for boaties and swimmers, sadly often alcohol is a factor in risk-taking behaviour that results in tragedy.

But let’s look at what we can control.

For most Australian children, learning to swim is a rite of passage. 

We probably take it for granted that most children have access to swimming lessons.

A year of swimming lessons can cost up to $600, or $140 per term.

For the majority of families this cost is nothing, so it might be hard to imagine that for some, this cost is out of reach.

In addition, newly arrived migrants might not priorities swimming lessons, because they don’t realise how important these skills are for Australian children.

And of course there are parents out there who sadly don’t make their childrens’ safety a priority because they have their own issues with poverty and addiction.

None of these reasons or excuses are any fault of the children who are missing out.

The Nowra Family Support Service’s drive to raise money to make sure every Shoalhaven family has access to swimming lessons is a fantastic local campaign that deserves our full support.

And it is at least something we can do to turn the tide on the drowning toll. 

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