Rescuers on the Richmond River after the drowning. Oscar Williams
Rescuers on the Richmond River after the drowning. Oscar Williams

Urgent call for tourist education

THE drowning death of a Korean man at Ballina on Saturday has prompted urgent calls for a campaign to help educate tourists about water safety.

The 35-year-old-man and his three friends were unable to swim well and got into trouble in waist-deep water in the Richmond River around 4.30pm.

Lennox Head surfer Jock Barnes, 29, rescued three of the swimmers but was unable to save the fourth man.

He said the tragedy was avoidable and more needed to be done to educate people about survival skills in the water.

"Any initiative or attempt to help would be a great start because obviously from what we saw on Saturday people are not getting introduced to the message," he said.

Mr Barnes said water safety messages needed to be targeted correctly so they could reach all members of the community, no matter where they came from.

"The only thing I can think of is if some sort of literature was handed out at airports when people are flying in but that being said, who's to say they're going to read it?"

Royal Lifesaving's National Drowning Report 2011 found 19 international tourists drowned in Australia during 2010/11.

Royal Lifesaving chief executive officer Rob Bradley conceded water safety information targeting international visitors to Australia was "limited"

"Does Australia have a duty of care to protect visitors to our shores? Yes, we do, and through the tourism authorities we do try to publicise the dangers and there is certainly signage in many common swimming spots but of course they might be limited in their effect for international tourists who are not familiar with written English."

Northern Rivers Tourism chief executive officer Russell Mills said tourism operators wanted to help educate tourists about water safety.

"There is existing travelling safety information on national, state and local tourism websites, but given the incidence of these tragic events it probably warrants some kind of concerted campaign."

Mr Mills said the tourism board would contact Surf Life Saving NSW to see if surf safety information can be included in international marketing campaigns promoting the Northern Rivers.

"Sometimes it takes an incident like this to spur people into action and if we can actually reduce the loss of life in the future by having more explicit information then it's definitely something that should be done."



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