7. Priority Area: Activities

Focus: Boating and watercraft

Why is this an area of focus?

Boating and watercraft activities are increasingly popular across Australia. An estimated 20% of the population participate in boating and watercraft-based activities annually. Drowning is the leading cause of boating-related fatalities, and while drowning deaths have steadily decreased over time, more work is required to address factors such as lifejacket wear and boating under the influence of alcohol. Boating makes significant social and economic contributions, from the proven health and wellbeing benefits of getting on the water, to supporting industry and jobs in manufacturing, tourism and leisure sectors.

Boating includes registered or non-registerable vessels that are powered by wind or motors, including motorboats, sailboats, catamarans and personal watercraft (PWC, also known as jet skis). Watercraft includes non-powered recreational equipment that require physical input from a person (e.g., surf boards, stand-up paddle boards, body/boogie boards, wind surfers, kayaks, canoes, rowboats, inflatable rafts and inflatable boats without motors).

Key data (2009/10 to 2018/19)

488 drowning deaths

Average of 49 deaths per year

0.21 deaths/ 100,000 population

Top 3 age groups

9% 35-39 years
9% 55-59 years
9% 60-64 years

Top 3 activities

50% Ocean/harbour
21% River/creek
16% Beach

93% Male

34% Pre-existing medical condition

70% Boating
30% Watercraft

15% BAC ≥0.05% (among those aged 15 years and over)

Key activities 2021-2025


  • Investigate boating and watercraft drowning deaths, other fatalities and injuries
  • Expand the use of participation measures, such as vessel registration, licences issued, watercraft sales and exposure studies
  • Evaluate boating and watercraft safety campaigns and education programs


  • Strengthen legislation in the areas of lifejacket wear, alcohol consumption, licensing and registration in all jurisdictions
  • Establish systems that measure and report lifejacket wear rates, boating participation and economic impact of the sector
  • Monitor and report on compliance and enforcement of legislative requirements


  • Advocate the strengthening of safety standards (e.g., lifejackets, vessels, equipment)
  • Deliver coordinated boating safety campaigns at a National, State and Territory and local level


  • Strengthen collaboration across National, State and Territory and local boating stakeholders, including retailers
  • Support pathways into recreational boating and watercraft clubs


  • Deliver boating safety campaigns with maritime safety partners that address safe trip planning, vessel standards, safety equipment, overloading and risk-taking behaviour
  • Expand the delivery of safe boating community education and awareness programs
  • Strengthen boating driver training capability
  • Strengthen the role of retailers in safety and boating education in partnership with State and Territory Boating Safety Agencies
  • Strengthen voyage planning education programs to improve decision making based on weather hazards and information

Safe environments

  • Review and maintain boating infrastructure (e.g., boat ramps, lighting, channel markers)
  • Install telecommunication in remote (popular) locations
  • Expand boating safety officer programs and resources for all waterways


  • Enhance professional development of the maritime safety workforce

Creating medium term changes in


Systems for data collection to inform maritime safety policies and strategies across Australia


Effectiveness of lifejacket and boating safety legislation, and its enforcement in all States and Territories


Availability and effectiveness of evidence-based community boating, boat driver training and watercraft education programs


Boating and watercraft safety among boat and watercraft users


Numbers of adults and children wearing lifejackets on the water

Targets 2030

Increased rates of lifejacket use among adults and children

World leading compliance and enforcement systems

Drowning rate related to boating and watercraft reduced by 50%