1. Priority Area: People

Focus: Children (0-4 years)

Why is this an area of focus?

Although significant progress has been made in reducing drowning in children aged 0-4 years, deaths among children remain high relative to other age groups, particularly in the second year of life as children become more mobile. Research shows that there are eight non-fatal drowning incidents for every death among children aged 0-4 years, the highest fatal to non-fatal drowning ratio of any age group.

Toddlers are curious and increasingly mobile but lack an understanding of water-related hazards, making them vulnerable to drowning in and around the home, particularly in private swimming pools and dams on rural properties. Parental and carer supervision is considered critical to preventing drowning, so educating each new generation is a high priority. Barriers to water, usually in the form of swimming pool fencing, are a well-accepted and effective approach.

Preventing drowning in children aged 0-4 years is a priority because young children continue to experience high rates of drowning, despite there being clear and effective prevention measures.

Key data (2009/10 to 2018/19)

248 drowning deaths

Average of 25 deaths per year

1.62 deaths/ 100,000 population

Top 3 locations

53% Swimming pool
19% Bathtub/spa bath
10% Lake/dam

Top 2 activities

78% Fall
19% Bathing

The drowning rate triples after a child’s first birthday, with the rate peaking
at one year of age (3.47 deaths/100,000 population)

Fatal to non-fatal ratio


42% of all non-fatal drowning incidents
occur in children aged 0-4 years*

*Data relates to 2002/03 to 2014/15

Key activities 2021-2025


  • Investigate fatal and non-fatal drowning to identify trends and emerging issues
  • Investigate the long-term health, social and economic impacts of non-fatal drowning
  • Evaluate child drowning prevention campaigns and programs


  • Review State and Territory pool fencing legislation and enforcement systems
  • Strengthen non-fatal data collection, including the investigation of additional data sources
  • Work with local governments and the swimming pool industry to provide practical assistance with interpreting Australian Standards and State and Territory legislation, and translating this into community action


  • Coordinate child drowning campaigns targeting the importance of active supervision at all times around water and barriers to prevent children accessing water unaccompanied
  • Deliver coordinated child drowning prevention campaigns which highlight the full burden of drowning
  • Advocate strengthened policies regarding pool barrier requirements
  • Raise awareness of water-related hazards on rural properties and agricultural land, with a focus on promoting safe play areas for children


  • Standardise safety messages across all child drowning prevention programs
  • Establish ways to share effective campaign materials and expertise to strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of campaign development and implementation


  • Expand availability of child drowning content in parental education programs
  • Improve access to first aid and CPR training courses for parents and carers
  • Ensure new homeowners and renters have access to relevant pool safety information

Safe environments

  • Review and update pool safety signage to ensure optimal effectiveness and functionality
  • Strengthen strategies to address child drowning around the home, including bathtubs, ponds and other water containers
  • Emphasise the need to supervise children at all times around water in relevant public safety signage


  • Strengthen professional development opportunities for aquatic industry staff and private pool barrier inspectors

Creating medium term changes in


Understanding the full burden of drowning and intervention effectiveness


Pool fencing laws in all States and Territories


Implementation of pool fencing compliance programs at the relevant Government authority level


Identification of child drowning hazards and prevention measures


Active supervision among parents and carers

Targets 2030

All relevant Government authorities have pool fencing compliance programs

Drowning rate among children reduced by 50%