14. Priority Area: Activities

Focus: Multicultural communities

Why is this an area of focus?

Australia’s population is diverse, with Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data showing that 49% of the population were either born overseas or had at least one parent who was born overseas, and 21% speak a language other than English at home. This diversity is reflected in drowning statistics, with differences in cultural associations and lower participation in learn to swim and other water safety activities thought to be a factor.

Three main groups are identified in this area: migrants, international students and overseas visitors. Risk factors differ slightly across each group. Adult migrants often have limited experience and understanding of water and water safety in the Australian context. International students are often attracted by Australia’s aquatic lifestyle, although many come with limited exposure to water in a recreational context. Overseas visitors can be complacent when holidaying and may increase risk-taking behaviour, including consumption of alcohol and trying unfamiliar activities in unfamiliar environments.

Key data (2009/10 to 2018/19)

725 overseas-born resident* drowning deaths

174 overseas tourist drowning deaths

Average of 73 overseas-born resident deaths per year

Average of 17 overseas tourist deaths per year

1.09/100,000 overseas born residents

2.81/100,000 overseas tourists

Top 3 locations

Overseas-born residents
23% River/creek
22% Beach
15% Rocks

Overseas tourists
25% Beach
21% River/creek
17% Ocean/harbour

Top 3 activities

Overseas-born residents
30% Swimming and recreating
14% Fall
11% Rock fishing

Overseas tourists
42% Swimming and recreating
28% Diving
5% Boating

41% of overseas-born residents were classified as poor swimmers**

39% of overseas tourists were classified as competent swimmers**

* International students are included as overseas-born residents given their intent to study and live in Australia for a minimum of 12 months
** Where swimming ability was known. Includes experience of the relevant activity (e.g., experienced scuba diver/surfer)

Key activities 2021-2025


  • Investigate risk factors for drowning among people from multicultural communities
  • Conduct qualitative studies to inform development of culturally relevant and acceptable advocacy activities and programs
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of interventions aimed at multicultural communities
  • Improve the collection of relevant drowning data


  • Strengthen policies that aim to increase access and sustainability of targeted programs
  • Ensure drowning prevention policies reflect diverse community needs


  • Advocate for funding of water safety programs for vulnerable populations
  • Promote the importance of swimming and water safety for all ages to multicultural communities
  • Engage with ethnic media to increase reach among multicultural communities, including social media


  • Establish a National Multicultural Populations Water Safety Reference Group
  • Partner with multicultural community groups in policy, research and advocacy efforts
  • Partner with tourism and university sectors to prioritise strategies for overseas visitors and international students


  • Ensure program and campaign messaging is culturally sensitive and language appropriate
  • Develop, implement and evaluate customised programs that are co-designed with and delivered by multicultural community members
  • Include cultural brokers in the planning, development and evaluation of swimming and water safety programs

Safe environments

  • Ensure water location management plans cater to the needs of diverse populations
  • Install appropriate safety signage, noting the importance of visual and multilingual information
  • Implement community initiatives that promote safe participation across all aquatic environments


  • Increase cultural competence of aquatic workforce
  • Implement programs to increase the cultural diversity of the aquatic workforce

Creating medium term changes in


Data and research to inform policy and advocacy


Availability of funding for programs for multicultural communities


Programs and campaigns, developed using best practice guidelines based on evidence and evaluation


Water safety and drowning risk among multicultural communities


Positive water safety practices and increased participation in swimming and aquatic activities

Targets 2030

Increased availability of programs that meet the needs of different cultural groups

Drowning rate among people from multicultural backgrounds reduced by 50%