Report sees increase in swimming deaths

Teacher Materno Biwot’s 14-year-old son drowned after he was caught in a rip at a Mindarie beach in March.
Teacher Materno Biwot’s 14-year-old son drowned after he was caught in a rip at a Mindarie beach in March.

‘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.

‘That is just too high,’ Mr Andrew said.

The deaths included the 14-year-old son of former Sudanese primary school teacher Materno Biwot.

Mr Biwot saw his son drown after the latter was caught in a rip at a Mindarie beach 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 application that shows swimming conditions along the coast.

To help combat the increase in drowning, SLSWA extended BeachSAFE program to include a safety session at migrant centres, schools and community groups, while promoting swimming between flags at patrolled beaches, supervision of swimmers, familiarising with wind, waves, tides and rips and first aid.