Saving Lives Together: The World Conference of Drowning Prevention

In early December 2023, Perth played host to a gathering of over 700 delegates from 50 countries at the World Confernece on Drowning Prevention. Hosted by the International Life Saving Federation, this event served as a pivotal moment, drawing the worlds attention to the urgent need for drowning prevention and water safety initiatives.

The conference was a melting pot of ideas, research, and actions, fostering an environment where experts in drowning prevention, lifesaving, and water safety collaborated to shape global strategy. This collaborative effort highlights the shared commitment to addressing the challenges posed by drowning.

Delegates we treated to an enriching experience with field trips, workshops, and research opportunities. These activities allowed participants to test, measure, and reflect on the impact of their efforts. The conference featured specialised streams covering policy, research, prevention efforts, rescue and disaster preparation, emergency response and advocacy.

The conference provided a platform for the exchange of vast knowledge and experiences. Attendees left empowered, armed with insights and strategies to bolster drowning prevention efforts globally, nationally, and locally. The collaborative spirit of the conference underscored the collective determination to promote water safety and drowning prevention on a global scale.

Noteworthy Presentations

Royal Life Saving Society Queensland State Manager Education & Training, Nikki Thornhill, made a significant impact during her presentation and comprehensive discussion on the critical initiative of Reducing Migrant Risk of Drowning in Queensland through tailored programs:

  • Highlighted the importance of developing specialized programs addressing specific risks faced by migrants in aquatic environments.
  • Emphasized the need for targeted educational strategies and innovative approaches to minimize drowning incidents among migrant communities.
  • Showcased proactive measures taken by the Royal Life Saving Society Queensland to enhance water safety for all individuals.
  • Nikki's passionate commitment resonated, inspiring action and fostering awareness among attendees.
Royal Life Saving Society Queensland State Manager Education & Training - Nikki Thornhill

Royal Life Saving Society - Australia National Medical Advisor, Emeritus Prof. John Pearn AO RFD, delivered a compelling analysis on the significant impact of legislation in preventing pool drownings, particularly among pre-school aged children:

  • Prof. Pearn's research spanned thirty years and revealed a remarkable 40% reduction in domestic drownings in the pre-school aged group due to safety legislation.
  • Emphasized the crucial role legislation plays as an effective preventive measure, reducing child fatalities and long-term disabilities when monitored and enforced.

Additionally, Prof. Pearn eloquently addressed the ethical complexities intertwined with lifesaving endeavors:

  • Highlighted fundamental principles guiding decision-making in drowning scenarios: autonomy, beneficence, and justice.
  • Expanded the discussion to ethical considerations in sudden emergencies, emphasizing the importance of empowerment and informed choices in the face of risk.
  • Shed light on moral obligations, the psychological impact of unsuccessful rescues, and the complexities when rescuers become victims, offering nuanced understanding of the ethical dimensions inherent in lifesaving efforts.
Royal Life Saving Society - Australia National Medical Advisor - Emeritus Prof. John Pearn AO RFD

Looking Ahead: The Perth 2023 conference was not just a moment in time but a catalyst for ongoing efforts. The insights gained and strategies outlined will continue to shape our approach to drowning prevention and water safety. As we move forward, let us remain commited to the shared goal of making aquatic environments safer for all.

Left to Right: James (Jim) McClelland, Nikki Thornhill, Nicky Sloan & Clive Holland