4. Priority Area: Places

Focus: Beaches, ocean & rocks

Why is this an area of focus?

The Australian coast is extensive with close to 12,000 beaches and 59,736 km of coastline. Spending time at beaches, on rock platforms and in the ocean is a popular pastime, with our coast being internationally recognised and making a significant economic contribution through the domestic and international tourism sectors.

Preventing drowning at beaches, oceans and rocks is a priority because coastal environments are dynamic and create diverse opportunities for recreation. They also present a variety of risks and hazards making coastal safety management complex, reaffirming beaches, oceans and rocks as priority locations for drowning prevention.

Too often, people visiting the coast do not recognise or underestimate the associated risks and hazards, exposing themselves and others to dangers unnecessarily. In addition, coastal environments record relatively high numbers of non-drowning-related fatalities, including interactions with wildlife and medical episodes or injuries, many of which are also preventable.

Key data (2009/10 to 2018/19)

1,143 drowning deaths

Average of 114 deaths per year

0.48 deaths/ 100,000 population

Top 3 age groups

9% 20-24 years
9% 25-29 years
9% 60-64 years

Top 3 activities

27% Swimming and recreating
20% Boating
14% Diving

Over 300 million coastal visitations*

11.1 million coastal activity participants*

314 Surf Life Saving clubs*

89,695 first aid treatments performed*

10,176 rescues performed*

*Data relates to 2018/19

Key activities 2021-2025


  • Expand coastal research to include non-drowning-related injury and fatalities
  • Establish participation data to build accurate assessments of exposure
  • Identify emerging risk pathways using innovative, multi-disciplinary research
  • Input to the development of beach-based wave models to identify likelihood of rip currents and provide foundation for warning systems
  • Evaluate new and existing interventions (e.g. signage, media campaigns and education programs)
  • Improve understanding of usage of unpatrolled and remote locations


  • Develop evidence-based coastal safety legislation/best practice
  • Investigate legislative approaches to address coastal safety priorities
  • Develop local water safety plans for key locations and communities


  • Increase awareness of key coastal risk factors raised at National, State and Territory, and local levels
  • Highlight the impact of risk-taking behaviour (e.g., alcohol, drugs, hazards) to key demographics
  • Ensure opportunities for swimming and water safety education are available and accessible to people of all backgrounds and abilities


  • Partner with Federal, State and Territory and Local Governments, National Parks and land and water management authorities
  • Partner with high-risk communities to engage community-led risk management


  • Deliver coastal safety education, alcohol awareness, programs and campaigns
  • Deliver basic lifesaving courses to targeted demographics or high-risk populations
  • Promote rip current identification skills through workshops, media and online channels
  • Deliver high-level training to build lifesavers’ skills and establish sustainable training models

Safe environments

  • Identify beach, ocean and rock blackspots across different environments and activities
  • Review access and effectiveness of emergency infrastructure, including public rescue equipment installed at high-risk and unpatrolled locations
  • Enhance surveillance patrols, search and rescue operations capabilities beyond patrolled areas
  • Enhance beach risk ratings and warning notifications using higher resolution wave modelling
  • Install appropriate safety signage, noting the importance of visual and multilingual information


  • Develop a multicultural lifesaver leadership program to extend the cultural reach and expansion of programs for people from diverse backgrounds
  • Increase retention and recruitment of active lifesavers
  • Implement mental health and resilience programs across coastal safety and emergency services
  • Support Surf Life Saving workforce and membership through information and communications technology
  • Upskill lifesaving personnel to extend response scope (e.g., swift water and disaster response)

Creating medium term changes in


Understanding exposure rates for activities and popular coastal locations


Legislation targeting high-risk activities that is expanded nationally for consistency


Targeted coastal safety strategies implemented at blackspot locations


Appropriate actions in the case of an emergency


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

Targets 2030

Leading in coastal safety service and systems through the implementation of innovative technologies and strategies World leading levels of lifesaving skills across all communities

Drowning rate at beaches, oceans and rocks reduced by 50%