2. Priority Area: People

Focus: Young males (15-29 years)

Why is this an area of focus?

Males continue to be over-represented in drowning statistics. This trend is especially apparent during adolescence and early adulthood, a time of increasing independence. Drowning is often attributed to higher exposure due to increased participation rates, inflated confidence levels that may not reflect abilities, the influence of peer pressure and an increased likelihood to engage in risk-taking behaviours.

Preventing drowning in young males (15-29 years) is a priority based on the rationale that early adoption of safe behaviours may have flow-on benefits through adulthood. Secondary schools, universities and sport and recreation clubs may represent a good entry point for skill and awareness development.

Key data (2009/10 to 2018/19)

498 drowning deaths

Average of 50 deaths per year

1.99 deaths/ 100,000 population

Top 3 locations

35% River/creek
22% Beach
12% Rocks

Top 3 activities

39% Swimming and recreating
10% Boating
9% Jumped in

20% BAC ≥0.05%

18% illegal drugs

The drowning rate for 19-year-old-males is 9 times higher than 12-year-old males

There are 7 times as many male drowning
deaths as female in this age group

Key activities 2021-2025


  • Expand research to include non-drowning-related injuries among young males
  • Investigate risk factors for risk-taking behaviour among young males
  • Investigate the effectiveness of peer-to-peer education strategies
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of existing water safety campaigns, programs and services


  • Strengthen policies supporting the delivery of lifesaving education in secondary schools
  • Investigate policy change as a means of reducing alcohol-related drowning risk around hospitality venues


  • Deliver campaigns targeting alcohol consumption and risk taking in drowning among young males
  • Use technology to increase access to key water safety messages


  • Partner with education, injury prevention and health organisations to build capacity and coordination
  • Develop and confirm consistent messaging across the water safety sector
  • Partner with community and recreation groups


  • Deliver peer-led education with a focus on prevention, alcohol and risk taking, how to avoid harmful situations and the consequences of negative behaviour
  • Expand lifesaving education and training (e.g. Bronze Medallion)
  • Expand education strategies to include targeted digital and social media content

Safe environments

  • Develop and implement interventions at drowning blackspots for young males


  • Support teachers to deliver lifesaving education in secondary schools through appropriate training materials and opportunities

Creating medium term changes in


Understanding risk factors, intervention effectiveness and appropriate delivery strategies


Swimming and lifesaving education in secondary schools


Programs and services, designed, developed and delivered by young males


Program messages, drowning risk factors and preventive measures


Risk-taking behaviour (particularly undertaken after alcohol or drug consumption)

Targets 2030

Increased swimming and lifesaving education in secondary schools

Reduced risk-taking behaviour

Drowning rate among young males reduced by 50%