Deputy Premier and Minister for Emergency Services Peter Ryan today encouraged all Victorians to help spread the water safety message this summer at the launch of Water Safety Week in Melbourne.
Mr Ryan joined water safety ambassadors from Life Saving Victoria, Aquatics & Recreation Victoria, Surfing Victoria, Swimming Victoria and Yachting Victoria at the launch where Victorians were urged to enjoy the water safely this summer.
“While the Victorian drowning death toll is currently the lowest on record with, 34 deaths in 2010/2011, the reality is that one death in the water is one too many,” Mr Ryan said.
“Summer is almost here and the message is clear: Victorians need to play it safe by the water, whether it is around the local pool, down the coast, at a lake or a river.
“Never swim alone, look before you leap and never take your eyes off children in or around the water – the tragedy is 20 seconds is all it takes for a child to drown,” Mr Ryan said.
Water Safety Week, which runs until Sunday 4 December 2011, encourages Victorians of all ages to participate in a range of water safety activities in a variety of environments.
More than 180 aquatic facilities have registered to participate in Water Safety Week this year, offering activities focusing on water safety and survival skills.
Mr Ryan said the newly-released 2010/11 Victorian Drowning Report identified some encouraging outcomes in water safety, with the rate of toddler drowning deaths down dramatically, from seven in 2009/2010 to one in 2010/2011.
“In Victoria, while we have exceeded our target in reducing drowning deaths in children aged under five years, work is still needed to reduce drowning deaths in inland waterways and those aged over 60 years,” Mr Ryan said.
“Since the Play It Safe by the Water campaign began in 1998, the drowning death rate in Victoria has more than halved, dropping from 1.38 people per 100,000 of population to 0.61 per 100,000 of population.”
Mr Ryan said the Coalition Government had allocated $3 million this financial year to continue delivering water safety programs, including the Play It Safe by the Water campaign, community and school education programs and lifesaving services.
“The Coalition Government is also delivering on a $1.6 million election commitment by making VICSWIM learn to swim classes more affordable for many children across Victoria,” Mr Ryan said.
“The program, which is managed by Aquatics and Recreation Victoria, offers subsidised swimming lessons, bringing the total cost per participant to approximately $5 per swimming class for this summer. This is less than half the regular cost.”
Mr Ryan said while lifesavers aimed to reduce aquatic-related death and injury, all Victorians needed to be safe around aquatic environments and venues.
“This summer season, Victoria’s 26,000 volunteer lifesavers from 57 patrolling clubs will be out in force across 66 beaches with 120 professional lifeguards supporting them,” Mr Ryan said.
Mr Ryan said last season, lifesavers across Victoria performed more than 690 rescues and assisted in more than 1800 first aid incidents.
For more information about the VICSWIM program and to enroll visit www.vicswim.com.au
Media contact: Sonia Heath 0413 485 526