Click here to download the 2021 National Drowning Report.

Today, in a joint release, the Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report 2021 and Surf Life Saving National Coastal Safety Report 2021 were released. There were 294 drowning deaths in the past 12 months across Australia’s coastline, inland waterways and pools, which is 20% higher than last year (245).

Concerningly there was 75 drownings in inland waterways which is a 53% increase, and 66 drowning at beach, which is a 50% increase.

While further research is needed, the findings from RLSSA show that the impacts of COVID on increases in drowning deaths is largely attributable to:

  1. Increased drowning risk among Australians visiting unfamiliar locations. COVID has seen more people seeking out remote places to escape crowds, swimming outside of patrolled hours, taking more day trips to isolated beaches, rivers or lakes and holidaying domestically at unfamiliar locations.
  2. Increased drowning risk around the home. Complacency can often seep in when people are exhausted from working from home, homeschooling, and restricted time in confined spaces, sometimes resulting in distractions or unsupervised children around water.
  3. Australians lack the swimming skills necessary to enjoy the water safely. COVID has seen children missing out on swimming lessons, adults and teenagers with reduced pool access who are no longer swim fit and/or lack confidence in the water leading to increased drowning incidents in open waterways. 

key facts include:

  • Rescue-related incidents on our coast were up 150% from average, with rip currents at unpatrolled locations being prominent factors within these incidents
  • There were 25 drowning deaths among children aged 0-4 years, an 108% increase on last year and a 9% increase on the 10-year average.
  • People aged 25-34 years accounted for 17% of all drowning deaths, the most of any age group.
  • 136 drowning deaths occurred on coastal waters, an 13% increase on last year and the 10-year average (n=120).
  • 75 drowning deaths occurred in rivers and creeks; this is a 53% increase on last year.

Previous National Drowning Reports