9. Priority Area: Activities

Focus: Diving and snorkelling

Why is this an area of focus?

Diving and snorkelling are popular activities, both recreationally and commercially. They are significantly integrated within the Australian tourism and commercial sectors. Typically, scuba diving involves using an underwater breathing apparatus that is usually self-contained but can be from a source at the surface (e.g., hookah). Snorkelling is swimming with the aid of a mask and snorkel and, often, fins.

Generally, the safety requirements for snorkelling reflect many of those for diving, including adequate physical and medical fitness, sufficient skills, and comfort in the water. More snorkellers die nationally than divers, in part due to higher participation, but also because it requires less aquatic training and experience. Due to increases in related drowning deaths, diving and snorkelling have also become a national focus for water safety.

Key data (2009/10 to 2018/19)

174 drowning deaths

Average of 17 deaths per year

0.07 deaths/ 100,000 population

Top 3 age groups

12% 30-34 years
11% 40-44 years
10% 60-64 years

Top 3 activities

55% Ocean/harbour
34% Beach
5% Rocks

29% Pre-existing medical condition

Most diving-related drowning deaths occur in offshore waters

Snorkelling-related deaths often occur at coastal beaches

Key activities 2021-2025


  • Collect, analyse and report on diving-related deaths and non-fatal incidents
  • Examine any existing Codes of Practice for relevance, adherence and effectiveness


  • Encourage the introduction of Codes of Practice in States and Territories where none exist
  • Strengthen policies requiring oxygen first aid equipment and a trained provider at all sites
  • Strengthen policies requiring medical examination for all divers with a significant medical condition, including all divers over 45 years of age


  • Deliver diving safety campaigns, workshops and information dissemination
  • Advocate for State and Territory systems for the collection and analysis of diving incident data


  • Partner with diving industry stakeholders to share certification and activity data
  • Strengthen collaboration at a National, State and Territory and local level on policy and safety campaigns
  • Strengthen partnerships with the tourism sector to better engage with domestic and international tourists
  • Support pathways into recreational diving and snorkelling clubs


  • Promote the inclusion of diving medicine orientations in all medical training courses
  • Provide education on the risks of diving and snorkelling with pre-existing medical conditions
  • Reinforce the importance of an effective buddy system in facilitating a faster rescue
  • Provide factual education on the prevention and management of decompression illness

Safe environments

  • Promote the recognition and adherence of the diver down flag (scuba flag) system for all boat operators
  • Create specific artificial reefs and marine reserves as dedicated, fishing-free, diving areas


  • Develop and enhance professional development and safety practices across the workforce

Creating medium term changes in


Understanding the risks for older and/or obese divers, inexperienced divers and users of rebreathers


Adoption and adherence to Codes of Practice for dive and snorkel operators


Policies requiring a medical examination for diving among older divers and those with pre-existing medical conditions


Impact of health conditions on diving safety, and the need for regular diving specific medical examinations


Dive planning, regular equipment maintenance, and closer buddy positioning and monitoring

Targets 2030

All dive operations have appropriate oxygen first aid equipment and trained providers on site

Industry-wide adoption of risk management, including the risks associated with common medical conditions in older divers

Drowning rate related to diving and snorkelling reduced by 50%