My Beach

Western Australia saw a 31% increase in coastal* drowning deaths last year, according to figures just released by Surf Life Saving WA, the state’s peak coastal safety organisation.

The statistics revealed that 17 lives were lost on the WA coast last year* and that males continue to be overrepresented at 88%, with boating incidents representing 41% of the drowning deaths, up significantly on the previous year’s 23%.

Surf Life Saving WA (SLSWA) General Manager Lifesaving, Chris Peck said that, while no drownings occurred in areas under direct surveillance by SLSWA services, were it not for the presence of surf lifesavers the statistics would have been much worse.

“Last year our lifesaving services performed 481 rescues and 52,544 preventative actions,” said Mr Peck.

“Based on this, we also know that, without our services we would have seen an additional 50 lives lost on the WA coast, and a further 30 critical injuries incurred, at a cost to the WA community in excess of $225 million.”

Mr Peck said that these statistics, plus the fact that every $1 spent by SLSWA was expected to generate $14.71 in benefit to the WA community, clearly demonstrated the immense value of Surf Life Saving services but that there was still much work to be done in achieving zero preventable drowning deaths.

“As an organisation, we are continuing to tackle this challenge through community education including delivery of programs such as our Woodside Nippers,” said Mr Peck.

“We are teaching generations of children not only essential beach safety and surf awareness skills, but also training up new generations of lifesavers to protect both beachgoers and this coastal lifestyle that we value so much.”

As we head into the warmer months and people start to head back to the beach, Surf Life Saving WA continues to remind people to be vigilant about their own safety, and that of friends and family, when they participate in coastal recreation activities.

“With no lives lost between our red and yellow flags, we remind beach goers that this is a safer place to swim,” said Mr Peck.

Volunteer surf lifesaver patrols will commence in October.

Other key WA coastal drowning death statistics include:

  • 47% were in the 55+ year life stage
  • 82% occurred between Monday – Friday
  • 53% occurred between 6am – 10am
  • 47% occurred in regional or remote areas
  • 29% were attributable to severe weather
  • All metropolitan drowning deaths occurred in waters between Fremantle and Mandurah

 *A coastal drowning death is where the location of the drowning is on the coast, in the ocean up to 3NM offshore, or inland up to five times the width of the inlet/river.

*For the period 01 May 2018 – 30 April 2019

Additional notes for media:

According to the 2018 “Cost-benefit analysis of Surf Life Saving Western Australia” report by Deloitte Access Economics:

  • Every $1 spent by SLSWA is expected to generate $14.71 in benefits to the WA community
  • The $ value of a life is determined to be $4,500,000.

The full report can be downloaded here.