Concern at rise in drownings

Materno Biwot’s son drowned at a Mindarie beach last year.
Materno Biwot’s son drowned at a Mindarie beach last year.

‘There were 17 drownings in the past year, about five above the average, which is very worrying,’ SLSWA chief executive Paul Andrew said.

More than half the victims were born overseas, up from 38 per cent in 2011/12, while young men aged 14-44 of all backgrounds were at the highest risk.

The deaths included the 13-year-old son of former southern Sudanese primary school teacher Materno Biwot (45). Jenon Biwot drowned after he was caught in a rip at Clayton’s Beach, Mindarie in March, despite the boy learning to swim at his WA school.

‘When we arrived in Australia three years ago, we were not aware of the dangers of the beach because there was no information or education about that,’ Mr Biwot said.

He wants beach safety signs and every West Australian to use SLSWA’s BeachSAFE mobile phone app that shows swimming conditions along the coast.

SLSWA extended the BeachSAFE program to include safety session at migrant centres, schools and community groups.