15. Priority Area: Activities

Focus: Regional & remote communities

Why is this an area of focus?

One-third of the Australian population live in regional and remote communities, outside the major cities. Regional and remote communities are diverse and pose unique challenges for drowning prevention. These areas are known to have low levels of population density, which means that lifesaving services are limited, emergency response times are longer, and program availability is lower. This coupled with extensive river systems that flow out into coastal waters provide for a complex range of risks.

Communities in regional and remote areas are often considered to be somewhat disadvantaged due to limited access to services and lower socioeconomic status. Regional and remote children spend more time outdoors but also experience lower developmental outcomes which has been linked to supporting risk reduction. They also have higher levels of alcohol consumption and undertake more activities around water close to home. Water safety strategies, including drowning prevention, designed for major cities are not necessarily relevant for regional and remote communities. Appropriate strategies require community-specific approaches to engage stakeholders.

Key data (2009/10 to 2018/19)

1,717 drowning deaths

Average of 172 deaths per yea

2.52 deaths/ 100,000 population

Top 3 locations

30% River/creek
17% Beach
17% Ocean/harbour

Top 3 activities

22% Swimming and recreating
15% Fall
14% Boating

81% Inner and outer regional

19% Remote and very remote

Compared with major cities, the drowning rate in remote areas is 8 times higher and 13 times higher in very remote areas

Key activities 2021-2025


  • Conduct studies to understand water exposure in regional and remote areas
  • Evaluate new and existing interventions (e.g. signage, media campaigns and education programs)
  • Work with coroners to increase the number of rural drowning deaths that are investigated


  • Reinforce risk management plans, including alcohol management at recreational locations
  • Develop local water safety plans that are embedded into policy and planning
  • Strengthen drowning prevention policies for use by local governments, water authorities and National Parks


  • Advocate for policies and funding that support sustainability of aquatic infrastructure
  • Deliver campaigns targeting risk-taking behaviour in regional and remote waterways
  • Promote safe play areas for children on rural properties and agricultural land


  • Strengthen partnerships with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, health and education agencies
  • Strengthen partnerships with Local Government, and local land and water management agencies
  • Promote partnerships to develop and implement local water safety plans


  • Expand the delivery of tailored swimming and lifesaving programs
  • Disseminate safety, rescue and CPR information through community groups and tourism operators
  • Explore and use online and new media to educate local communities

Safe environments

  • Conduct risk assessments to identify and mitigate environmental hazards
  • Establish the feasibility of public rescue equipment and telecommunication infrastructure
  • Improve strategies to reduce driving through flood waters


  • Ensure access to professional development for aquatic workforce in regional and remote areas
  • Provide training for emergency services, land managers and community organisations

Creating medium term changes in


Understanding risk, exposure and intervention effectiveness


Drowning risk management plans and infrastructure sustainability plans


Access to, and uptake of, education programs and services, including safe play areas on farms


Community understanding of hazards in the local area


Risk-taking behaviour at inland waterways

Targets 2030

Expansion in availability of programs and services in regional and remote areas

Drowning rate in regional and remote locations reduced by 50%