Don’t let your child be a drowning statistic

Experts are calling on parents to remain vigilant this summer, after 65% of children under four involved in a near drowning were found to be unsupervised by an adult.

The Sunday Telegraph recently published this news story about the just released NSW Study of Drowning and Near-Drowning in Children (0-16). The study indicates that drowning remains one of the leading causes of accidental death in children under the age of five years, with an average of 10 drowning deaths occurring each year in NSW.

The study highlights that supervision, effective pool barriers, learning swimming skills and learning resuscitation skills remain key child drowning prevention strategies.

Long term effects of a near-drowning incident on children can be extensive, putting them at risk of brain and other organ damage that can result in a lifetime of significant impairment.

“In an emergency, effective and early CPR can be the difference between life and death. It is most often a family member who finds the child in a drowning incident. Don’t let your child be a drowning statistic – every parent and carer needs to know the lifesaving skills of CPR.”  Dr Donovan Dwyer, Emergency Specialist and Director of Trauma at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick. 


  • Actively watch children at all times when in or near water.
  • 65% of the children aged 0-4 years who took part in the study had a non-fatal incident while unsupervised by an adult.


  • Ensure that any pool with capacity to be filled with 30cm of water or more has a compliant pool barrier which is adequately maintained and there’s nothing nearby that children can climb on.
  • Remember to empty buckets, wading pools and washing machines after use.
  • 33% of children in the study gained access to the swimming pool because the pool gate was propped open.
  • Other reasons included using an object to climb over the pool barrier, vertical gaps in the pool barrier greater than 10cm and faulty gate latches.


  • Teach children water safety and swimming lessons, but don’t rely on them to keep your child safe.
  • Over half of the children in the study had a history of swimming or water familiarisation lessons before the incident, but it still didn’t protect them.
  • It is also important for adults to learn to swim.

Learn CPR

  • 85% of the children in the study were found by a family member.
  • Learn CPR so you have the skills in case of an emergency.
  • Refresher classes for adults are recommended every 12 months.
  • Remember that any attempt at CPR is better than no attempt.

“An adult needs to be supervising children at all times regardless if the child knows how to swim. Mobile phones, attending to another child or getting a towel out of a bag are just some of the daily distractions that lead to a lapse of supervision. All parents and carers must be vigilant and cannot rely on other siblings and children to supervise” Sue Wick’s Kids Health Department Head, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead.