Worst year on record: Drownings occurring at unpatrolled beaches

February 11, 2021 BY

There have been 43 drowning fatalities since July 1, 2020.

NEW data has emerged from Life Saving Victoria (LSV) showing a concerning trend as the state grapples with the worst season on record.

LSV general manager of health promotion and communications Dr Bernadette Matthews said the coastal drownings recorded this financial year all had one thing in common.

“We’re currently experiencing the worst drowning period since record taking began in Victoria, with 43 fatalities since July 1, 2020.

“Most of Victoria’s fatal drownings so far this financial year have occurred on the coast – all of which happened outside lifesaving patrol times or at unpatrolled beaches.”

LSV is urging people to help life savers by making safety their number one priority around water.

“For beachgoers, this means swimming between the red and yellow flags at patrolled beaches and during patrolled times. We’re here to help, but if we can’t see you, we can’t save you,” Dr Mathews said.

Ahead of the disastrous season in the state’s waterways, Anglesea Surf Life Saving president Tom Cullen urged beachgoers to consider the hazards including where to swim.

“With more people getting down to the beach we need to remind them to swim between the flags and go to that extra effort to find a car park at a patrolled beach,” he said in December.

With the coronavirus pandemic preventing international travel, more people took to the coast over the summer period, leading to designated parks at patrolled locations filling up rapidly.

Fines were issued across popular locations to drivers who risked illegally parking alongside the road during the warmer weather.

“I don’t think parking is necessarily the only causation for people going to these locations and getting into trouble,” Mr Cullen said this week.

“There is a whole raft of things we need to as a community work on, so yes, in part; we need to make sure we swim at patrolled beaches.”

He said he understood the parking situation was a difficult one to solve.

“Obviously every town has capacity levels in regard to parking.

“What is the level of parking you need to accommodate every single user, same goes for an aquatic centre or a stadium with mass visitation – it is a hard thing,”

The City of Greater Geelong has confirmed it has a number of traffic and parking strategies in place to address the varying needs of different locations.

Director of city services Guy Wilson-Browne said the seasonal influx presented challenges but road users were encouraged to use common sense.

“We urge all road users to take extra care and only park in designated parking areas when visiting the beach.

“Parking in no-standing zones or along roadsides can have implications for emergency access as well as pedestrian and cyclist safety.”

The city has identified a need to support sustainable transport options as one of the key objectives in the City’s Sustainability Framework Action Plan.

“Increasing active and sustainable transport will play an important role in reducing congestion and parking issues throughout the region,” Mr Wilson-Browne said.

“We continue to work closely with coastal management authorities as well as Regional Roads Victoria to ensure safe and easy access to our beautiful beaches and coastal towns.”

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