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Between 1st July 2009 and 30th June 2010 three hundred and fourteen (314) Australians lost their lives by drowning. For the second year in a row, the number of child deaths increased to a total of 33 for the year.

In Australia, drowning is the #1 cause of accidental death of children aged 0 – 4 years and the majority of these drownings have occurred in private swimming pools and spas. Children who have drowned in private pools include residents, visitors and children who have wandered into the pool from the street and neighboring residences.

Many of these child drownings may have been prevented if the child access to the pool area had been restricted by a properly maintained barrier or there had been proper supervision. Young children are attracted to water and generally have little or no appreciation of the risk or hazard associated with it. Most lack the ability to look after themselves if they unintentionally fall into a swimming pool and they drown quickly and silently.

Both the Royal Life Saving ‘Keep Watch’ program and Laurie Laurence’s ‘Kids Alive – Do the Five’ programs promote a five layer water / pool safety strategy. The core components of both of these programs involve:

– restricting access to the pool / water
– teaching young children water awareness skills
– providing proper supervision whenever children are around water
having everyone who lives near a pool or who goes near water learning how to resuscitate (CPR)


Pool Safety laws in all states and territories now require swimming pools and spas that can be filled to a depth of more than 300mm to have a fence around them. Fences need to meet the requirements of Australian Standards 1926.1 and 1926.2. The general requirements of swimming pool fences are that they:

– are at least 1200mm high;
– have gaps of less than 100mm between vertical members;
– strong and secure;
– have horizontal members that are at least 900 mm apart;
– have gates which are self-closing and child resistant.


Water Awareness does not neccessarily mean learning to swim! Children from only a couple of months of age can learn to hold their breath whilst under water and to make their way to the surface. These basic skills along with learning that they should not go near water unless supervised have saved many young lives.

Learning to swim, which should be compulsory for all children, involves learning more complex physical skills which are not readily learnt until they are somewhat older but form an essential part of the community pool safety / water safety strategy


Whenever young people are near water they must have proper supervision. The Royal Life Saving Society defines supervision as ‘having constant visual contact from a distance of 3 – 5 metres‘. Where children in the 0 – 4 age group are being supervised the adult should also be in the water.

It takes only seconds for a child to go under water and drown so if the supervision is going to be interrupted for even a couple of seconds the child should be removed from the water and placed so that there is a barrier (fence) between them and the water.