September 16th, 2010
10:03 AM ET

Australia warning tourists after drownings triple

The report cites tourists with limited English and knowledge of the beach and waves for the increase in drownings.

Drownings of international tourists and immigrants have tripled in Australia over the past four years, prompting officials to begin a new campaign to warn visitors before they even step off the plane.

Australia’s National Coastal Safety Report released Thursday showed 26 international visitors or migrants drowned off the country’s shores during the 2009-2010 survey period, compared with nine international drowning deaths four years earlier. By comparison, drowning deaths were down overall with 82 during 2009-10, six below the five-year average of 88.

“Our research indicates that this high risk group has limited English skills, a lack of knowledge about the beach, over-estimate their swimming ability, inadequate swimming skills and a general lack of surf safety awareness,” said Brett Williamson, chief executive officer of Surf Life Saving Australia, which released Thursday’s report.

Read the full report (PDF)

Airlines including Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand, Garuda, Malaysia Airlines, South African Airways and China Airlines will show warning videos about the Australian surf as part of pre-landing briefings, the group said.

Warnings will be translated into Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Korean and Malay.

“I have witnessed many tourists on Australian beaches getting into trouble simply because they don’t know the basic swimming rules such as swimming between the red and yellow flags. To many Australians these rules seem like second nature, but they are not to international visitors,” said Stephanie Gilmore, a world champion surfer and ambassador for the safety campaign.

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Filed under: Australia
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. John C

    Survival of the fittest. That means more food and water for me!!

    September 16, 2010 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. South African

    Well i guess Oprah should cancal that Vacation she planned for all of her Audiance and instead buy them all a car

    September 16, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Squidly

    So, who do I send the littering fine to when the body washes up on my shore?

    September 16, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amy

      Feed it to your favorite pet shark 😛

      September 17, 2010 at 4:22 am | Report abuse |
  4. little green

    Do you people ever read an entire story? Are you incapable of some basic reading comprehension. TOURISTS are drowning due to the inability to understand the signs (written in English) or understand fundamental water safety such as swimming or a guarded beach or understanding that red flags mean no swimming. A lot of folks do not live near the ocean and don't understand the rules. When you travel overseas tell me how you do reading or listening to signs in a foreign language. BTW, story goes on to say total drownings are down so clearly the locals are educated on water hazards.

    September 16, 2010 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. DavidGC

    I used to live in a beachfront apartment on the Gold Coast between Surfers and Broadbeach.
    Near drownings were a weekly occurrence (daily during holiday seasons). Disproportionately, they involved tourists from Asian countries who would swim well outside of the flagged areas and repeatedly choose to ignore posted signs about rip currents AND the repeated warnings of lifesavers who would drive up and communicate with them over loudspeaker. At least once a day I would see someone swimming near a rip get called into shore by a lifesaver, only to turn around and go right back out as soon as the lifesaver had returned to patrol the flagged swimming area. The lifesavers have an enormously frustrating job.

    September 17, 2010 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
    • DavidGC

      I should clarify: I understand there is a language barrier in many cases. However, at popular beaches, it is obvious where the swimming areas are (the ones with the flags where all the people are swimming) and where the no-swimming areas are (the signs with the big red circle with a line through it over a person swimming). Also, it is clear that the swimmers know they should not be out when they are called in by the lifesaver and actually talk with them for a minute. About half the time, they go right back into the water as soon as the lifesaver leaves to return to the patrolled swimming area. My main point is that, from my perspective, this is more of an issue of people needing to accept that the risks are very real and to obey posted signs and warnings, rather than the result of any language barrier.

      September 17, 2010 at 1:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Amy

      Yes, after all been said and done, if someone chooses to ignore the lifesaver's warnings, they in fact choose to risk their life. Pure foolishness and disrespect for the ocean.

      September 17, 2010 at 4:19 am | Report abuse |
  6. DrVonBrain

    Definitely a story to make waves about.

    September 17, 2010 at 1:33 am | Report abuse |
  7. Anis

    This article made me lol a lil 🙂 Thanks for shrinag!I'm glad to hear you're having such great success with your program keep up the good work!

    August 11, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
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