December 3 - 9, 2023: Issue 608


National Coastal Safety Report 2023 released: surf life saving australia

Ahead of National Water Safety Day,  December 1, Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) released its National Coastal Safety Report which highlights the importance of making water safety a priority. 

SLSA together with Royal Life Saving Society – Australia are urging all Australians to make water safety a priority this summer, with the predicted hot weather tipped to see beaches and all waterways bursting with visitors. 

SLSA’s National Coastal Safety Report has found that there were tragically 125 drowning deaths over the past 12 months, with surf lifesavers and lifeguards performing 9,297 rescues during the 2022-2023 season.  

The SLSNSW 2023 NSW Coastal Safety Report, released the same day, records in 2022-23, lifesavers, lifeguards and support operations personnel responded to 753 emergency callouts, rescued more than 4,780 people and conducted 861,000 preventative actions.

48 people lost their lives on NSW beaches and coastal waters last year - 6 of these tragedies occurred in the SLS Sydney Northern Beaches Branch area.

With 85% of the population living within 50km of Australia’s coastline, water safety officials are pleading with Aussies and visitors to the coast to not be complacent when visiting the beach.  

The National Coastal Safety Report insights include: 

  • Men continue to be over represented, accounting for 82% of all drowning deaths in the past 12 months. 
  • 50% of drowning deaths occurred to older adults (aged 55+ years) 
  • 66% of drowning deaths happened more than 1 kilometre from a patrolled beach 
  • Alarmingly, 31% of drowning deaths were nearby residents to the drowning location 
  • Rip currents were involved in 22% of this years coastal drowning deaths 
  • 4.5 million adults have been unintentionally caught in a rip current at some point in their life. 

Surf Life Saving Australia CEO Adam Weir said: “Australians love visiting the coast and going to the beach. While most visits to the coast are filled with fun, excitement and wonderful memories, unfortunately for some they result in tragedy. 

“The National Coastal Safety Report highlights 125 coastal drowning deaths in the past 12 months, and while it was a welcomed reduction from last year, it was still above the ten-year average, and if not for the interventions of our surf lifesavers and lifeguards, this drowning figure would have been much higher. 

“Ahead of summer, we are urging all Australians to keep water safety top of mind when visiting our beaches, understand your limitations and swim between the red and yellow flags,” he said. 

Royal Life Saving CEO, Justin Scarr, said “Swimming at rivers and lakes can be extremely dangerous due to currents and debris. Men should make the right call, know their limits, wear lifejackets when boating, and always avoid alcohol around water. 

“Tragically, young children can be extremely vulnerable to drowning in backyard pools and in dams. Royal Life Saving reminds parents to Keep Watch, actively supervise children around water, restrict children’s access to water, and teach them water safety skills,” he said.

The Federal Government has declared December 1 National Water Safety Day, an annual reminder to encourage Australians to make water safety a priority. 

 Minister for Sport The Hon. Anika Wells MP says, 

“We are a nation that enjoys spending time in and around the water, particularly over summer. But the findings of the National Coastal Safety Report highlight the importance of water safety. 

“National Water Safety Day provides an opportunity for us all to reflect on how we can keep ourselves and our loved ones safe over summer. 

“This holiday season, I urge you to be vigilant, be safe and look out for each other around the water.”  

Surf Life Saving Australia and Royal Life Saving Society – Australia advise people to:

  • Always supervise children in, on and around water  
  • Learn swimming, water safety and lifesaving skills  
  • Wear a lifejacket when boating, rock fishing or paddling  
  • Swim at a patrolled beach between the red and yellow flags  
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs around water  
  • Check the conditions, including weather forecasts 

Read the National Coastal Safety Report here. 

Professor Rob Brander

November 29, 2023: Today we launched the 2023 National Coastal Safety Report at Parliament House, Canberra. We reported this year's tragic statistic of 125 coastal drowning deaths, the ongoing dangers of rip currents, and the importance of surf lifesavers and lifeguards, who performed 9,297 rescues across the country.

Special thanks to the Parliamentary Friends of Surf Life Saving Co-Chairs, the Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP and Ms Angie Bell MP, and also to Dr Rip (Professor Rob Brander) for joining us. Photo: SLSA