By Ellie Griffiths
In an announcement sure to surprise many people in Perth, the Swan River has been listed in the top five for drowning destinations in Australia.
The alarming finding is contained in an annual investigation of drowning deaths by the Royal Life Saving Society.
It found there was a total of 266 drowning deaths between 1 July 2013 and 30 June 2014 in waterways across the country.
Despite a 10% decrease in overall numbers within a year, there has been an unsettling increase of drowning deaths among the 18 to 24 year age group.
In this age group, rivers were accountable for one in three drowning deaths, followed by one in five for beaches.
Senior Manager for Health Promotion and Research at Royal Life Saving Society WA, Lauren Nimmo, has found Australians have been most surprised about the number of lives claimed in inland waterways, such as rivers.
“People are generally less aware of the risks and dangers that exist,” she said.
“[They] are lured into a false sense of security with the seemingly flat and calm appearance of the water which makes them less prepared, and results in a greater risk of drowning.”
This is a particular concern for 18 to 24 year olds because alcohol was involved in three of every four reported drowning deaths across Australia.
“It is concerning as many young people are taking unnecessary risks by drinking excessive amounts of alcohol when they are in, on or around aquatic environments with a disregard for the safety of themselves and others,” said Lauren.
Working along the Swan River for nine consecutive years, Guy Birchall has seen how many West Australians choose to enjoy the river, particularly along the South Perth Foreshore.
“Drinking alcohol on the foreshore is a common occurrence,” he said.
“Not an afternoon would go by without someone sitting on the river having a picnic and a quiet drink.”
The Royal Life Saving Society recommends all Australians be aware of safety around waterways to help reduce the risk of harm to themselves, their friends and family this summer.
For more information on how to be water safe, or to access the annual report, visit Royal Life Saving.