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Children love water and have a natural curiosity about it. Water play can be a fun activity, and learning to swim has many benefits.
However, drowning is the third most common cause of death for Australian children aged one to 14. Children can drown quickly and silently – it only takes 20 seconds and a few centimetres of water. One- and two-year-old children are particularly at risk.
Near-drownings can have catastrophic consequences, and lead to permanent disabilities.
Supervision is vital in preventing childhood drownings or near-drownings. By learning and enforcing the following four simple safety rules, you can help keep children safe around water.
Rule 1: Constant active supervision
Never take your eyes off children in, on or around water.
Rule 2: Restrict access to water
It is illegal for pools and spas not to be fenced off.
Rule 3: Learn first aid and resuscitation
Rule 4: Increase water awareness
Take the time to check your surroundings to reduce the risk of drowning or a life-changing injury.
What are the rules for children wearing lifejackets when out
Different states have different lifejacket laws. In Victoria, The Marine Safety Act states that every person aged less than 10 years old who is on an open area of the vessel wears a lifejacket at all times. See Maritime Safety Victoria:
Lifejacket laws. Make sure your child’s lifejacket fits properly, as they may slip out of an adult-sized jacket. Transport Safety Victoria does not recommend taking infants on board recreational boats, because lifejackets may not be effective. For more
information, see Maritime Safety Victoria:
Are there legal requirements about fencing for dams on
In Victoria, barriers or fencing are not legally required for dams, fish ponds or fountains. However, farm owners are responsible for the safety of their dam, and are required to register their dam and obtain a licence for operating the dam in some cases. You should check your own state or
territory guidelines for legal requirements outside of Victoria.
Despite the legal requirements, keeping bodies of water fenced off is the best way to prevent drowning. To prevent toddlers from wandering off unnoticed towards bodies of water, consider instead fencing off the yard or allocated play areas, and always supervise children when outdoors.
There are lifeguards at the local pool and surf lifesavers
at the beach where I take my child. Do I still need to learn first aid and CPR?
Lifeguards and surf lifesavers should not be a substitute for constant supervision of your child when they are at the pool or beach. Even though lifesavers and lifeguards are specially trained in first aid and CPR, it is recommended that parents and care givers also participate in
first aid training so they can confidently attend to injuries or emergencies, especially for situations when a lifeguard is not available (e.g. at a friend’s pool).
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Community Information in consultation with Life Saving Victoria and RCH Trauma Service. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed October 2018.
This information is awaiting routine review. Please always seek the most recent advice from a registered and practising clinician.
Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.