Drowning prevention

Drowning is a leading cause of death and morbidity for children in NSW.

Our information on this important issue has been divided into three key bodies of work. Please select below the content you wish to view.

1. Drowning and non-fatal drowning – ‘The NSW Study of Drowning and Near-drowning in children’ (see below)

2. Inflatable and portable pools - 'Kids Can Drown Without a Sound' Campaign

3. Swimming pool fencing – ‘Protect your pool, protect your kids’ Campaign

4. Drowning prevention summer campaigns – ‘In less than 2 minutes…..kids can drown without a sound’ Campaign (see below)

Drowning and Non-fatal drowning

Drowning is still one of the leading causes of death for children under five years of age.

While prevention efforts have contributed to a significant reduction in drowning deaths over the past decade, mortality rates in the 0-4 year age group remain high2.

At the same time, fatal drowning has decreased, resulting in an increase in the ratio of fatal to non-fatal drowning incidents2.

Between 1 July 2002 and 30 June 2017, 148 children aged 0-4 years fatally drowned in NSW across all aquatic locations, including 91 children in private swimming pools. Of these, 83 occurred in backyard pools, five in portable pools and three in outdoor spas1.

Between 1 July 2002 and 30 June 2015, there were 2021 cases of non-fatal drowning in NSW and an average of 155 non-fatal drowning incidents per year. Children under the age of five years accounted for the largest number of non-fatal drowning incidents (37.3%) followed by people aged 18-24 years (9.3%) and 25-34 years (9.2%)2.

NSW Study of Drowning and Near Drowning in Children (0-16)


In 2013, the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network along with the John Hunter Children’s Hospital began a five year study to examine admissions and presentations for non-fatal drowning to the three paediatric tertiary hospitals in New South Wales.

The findings of this study reconfirm what is already known about drowning in children: that children under five years are at the greatest risk of drowning; that they are most likely to drown in a home swimming pool or bath and that children who are unsupervised are more likely to drown than children who are closely and actively supervised while in or near water.

An interim report and safety video were produced in 2015 and are both available for download from the downloads section below.

The final report has now been published. It shows that supervision, effective pool barriers, learning swimming skills and learning resuscitation skills remain the key child drowning prevention strategies.

Access the 2018 final report and the infographics poster from the downloads section below.

What Can You Do to Prevent Child Drowning?


Always actively supervise children in and around water and stay within arm's reach of children aged 0 to 5 years.

Never leave another child responsible for a young child in a swimming pool, bath or spa, no matter how confident you are about the ability of the older child to watch the young child. Children are not capable of such responsibility. It is the responsibility of an adult to watch the child.

At outdoor gatherings, designate an adult to be responsible for supervising the kids at the pool. You may wish to have the adult in charge of supervising the children wear a hat or armband so they are easily identified.

Pool barrier

Have a compliant pool barrier. Go to the Swimming pool fencing section of this website to learn more, watch the ‘Protect Your Pool, Protect Your Kids’ video and access the checklist.

Regularly check pool fences and gates or arrange an inspection of your swimming pool with your local council or an accredited pool inspector.

Ensure the pool gate is always closed and never propped or left open.

Keep pot plants, furniture and any objects away from the swimming pool fence so that they cannot be used to climb over the pool fence.

Inflatable and portable pools also require a fence and an approved CPR chart in the pool area. See the Inflatable and Portable Pools section of the website for more information.

Water familiarisation

Familiarise your child with water but do not assume that they cannot drown.

Swimming lessons and flotation devices are not substitutes for adult supervision.

Information on approved swim courses can be obtained from:


Swim Australia


Learn infant and child Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and take annual refresher courses.

CPR for Parents is a free online CPR learning program for parents available through Kids Health.

Any attempt at CPR is better than no attempt at all.

For more information on how to perform CPR, please see the basic life support fact sheets for children less than 12 months and for children over 12 months.

Ensure that an approved CPR chart is displayed in the pool area. CPR charts can be obtained from your local council, pool shop or community organisations such as St John Ambulance, the Australian Red Cross or The Royal Life Saving Society.

Information on CPR courses can be obtained from:

St John Ambulance

Australian Red Cross

The Royal Life Saving Society NSW

For further information on swimming pool safety and legislation, visit the Fair Trading NSW website.

For more detailed information on water safety, please visit our safety factsheets.


1. Mahony A and Peden AE. NSW Child Drowning Report: A 15 year analysis of causal factors for drowning of children under 5 years in private swimming pools 2002/03-2016/17, Royal Life Saving Society Australia. Sydney. 2017

2. Mahony A, Barnsley P, Peden AE, Scarr J. A thirteen year national study of non-fatal drowning in Australia: Data challenges, hidden impacts and social costs, Royal Life Saving Society Australia. Sydney. 2017