RESPECT THE RIVER: New data from the Royal Life Saving Society reveals 1113 people drowned in Australia rivers, creeks and streams over the past 15 years and males accounted for 81% of these drowning deaths.
RESPECT THE RIVER: New data from the Royal Life Saving Society reveals 1113 people drowned in Australia rivers, creeks and streams over the past 15 years and males accounted for 81% of these drowning deaths. Supplied

Two Northern Rivers waterways are drowning blackspots

TWO local waterways have made the dubious honour of being ranked on the top 10 inland waterways drowning blackspots for NSW over the past 15 years.

While we generally think of drownings in connection with the beach, new data from the Royal Life Saving Society reveals 1113 people drowned in Australia rivers, creeks and streams over the past 15 years.

Now the RLSS has reported the Tweed and Clarence Rivers were ranked 5th and 10th with 14 and nine drowning deaths respectively .

Almost one third of all drowning deaths in rivers occurred among those aged 25-44 years (30%) and males accounted for 81% of these drowning deaths.

Nationally, rivers, creeks and streams are the leading location for drowning in Australia, with many people underestimating the dangers.

Nearly three quarters (74%) of drowning deaths in rivers were locals who drowned within 100km of their place of residence.

Now RLSS with the support of the Federal Government, is addressing these tragic statistics through the roll out of a national drowning prevention and public awareness campaign called Respect the River.

RLSS Australia's chief officer Justin Scarr said the large number of people drowning in our rivers, creeks and streams is alarming.

"Through the Respect the River campaign, Royal Life Saving aims to raise awareness of the dangers in our rivers as well as the preventable nature of these tragedies," he said.

"The newly released Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report 2017 showing that, in the last year alone, 68 people lost their lives in rivers around the country, making them the leading location for drowning."

Mr Scarr said men are at most risk, drowning at a rate that is four times that of women (81% of all drowning deaths in rivers).

Alarmingly, of the men who drowned, more than half (51%) had a contributory level of drugs or alcohol in their system.

"Men are prone to taking unnecessary risks and over-estimating their abilities, but with the changeable conditions in rivers, this can, and does put their life in danger," he said.

"We are asking people to follow four simple steps to reduce their drowning risk in rivers: wear a life-jacket, avoid alcohol and drugs around water, never swim alone and learn how to save a life."

It is often incorrectly assumed that tourists account for the majority of drowning deaths, however, RLS research reveals 74% of people who drowned in the country's rivers were locals to the area.

Mr Scarr said river conditions can change rapidly and just because you might regularly visit an area, does not mean the environment will be the same the next time you go.

"Rivers can be very hazardous environments," he said.

"Often you cannot see ice-cold water, rocks, snags like tree branches or strong currents (and) it's vital that people are aware of these hazards and Respect the River."

A joint study undertaken by RLSS and James Cook University, examined 10 years of fatal river drowning in Australia and identified key at-risk groups and behaviours in order to aid prevention efforts.

The study found that males when compared to females were three times as likely to drown in a river due to a boating or watercraft related incident and four times as likely to drown as a result of jumping in (commonly from bridges and trees whilst engaging in risk taking behaviour).

Research also found the lack of life-jackets being used in inland waterways is concerning as of those that drowned when using boats and watercraft, only 5% were found to be wearing a life-jacket.

RLSS national manager, aquatic risk, Craig Roberts said men should not be complacent when in ad around inland waterways.

"Men of this age are more prone to stretching boundaries and undertaking risky taking activities but you are playing with life or death," he said.

"Share the Respect the River message and look out for each other."

Top 10 inland waterways drowning blackspots for NSW

Rank River name Total drowning deaths

1. Murray River 47

2. Hawkesbury River 22

3. =3 Murrumbidgee River 16

4. =3 Parramatta River 16

5. =5 Georges River 14

6. =5 Tweed River 14

7. Nepean River 13

8. =8 Macquarie River 10

9. =8 Lake Macquarie 10

10. Clarence River 9

(Also Brunswick River - 2 deaths and Wilson River - 1 death.)



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