Survey says multicultural people a high risk of drowning

Safety message: Mark Woods at North Cronulla Beach is now doing research to help prevent beach drownings in multicultural communities. Picture: Geoff Jones
Safety message: Mark Woods at North Cronulla Beach is now doing research to help prevent beach drownings in multicultural communities. Picture: Geoff Jones

A local university student has restated his appeal for help with a study on multicultural beach drownings, following a new water safety campaign by Royal Life Saving NSW.

Mark Woods, of Miranda, said his survey had so far indicated people from multicultural backgrounds regularly went to the beach but did not know what a rip current was or the purpose of the red and yellow flags.

"A lack of knowledge about how to stay safe at the beach could be putting people from multicultural communities at risk of drowning," he told the Leader.

A new campaign by Royal Life Saving NSW is designed to improve water safety awareness among multicultural communities - initially those in the Chinese, Nepalese and Arabic speaking communities.

Data from Royal Life Saving showed 86 deaths across the nation in the 90 days of summer that ended on February 28. Of these, 28 drownings were in NSW, and one-third of the people were from multicultural backgrounds - the vast majority adult men.

Royal Life Saving said it was also concerning that in the past decade, 312 people who had drowned in NSW were born outside of Australia - 32 per cent of these were young men aged 18 to 34.

Royal Life Saving NSW CEO, Michael Ilinsky said some people might never have been in the water before or visited a public swimming pool, and some had a fear of water and of drowning.

The data shows that many people from a multicultural background are drowning in NSW and across Australia.

Mark Woods

"These are challenges that we are working with communities to overcome by providing opportunities to learn swimming and water safety skills and knowledge, which will help everyone to enjoy the water safely," he said.

The separate campaign by Mr Woods and UNSW is also targetting Nepalese speaking communities, along with Indian, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi, Bhutanese, Afghan and Pakistani.

"The stats provided by Royal Life Saving highlight the need for the project I am working on," Mr Woods said. "Currently, there is very little scientific research focusing on why this may be happening. The project I am working on will provide this critical missing data by revealing how people from multicultural backgrounds use the beach and understand beach safety.

This information can hopefully be used to guide future education and safety campaigns."

Mr Woods wants St George and Sutherland Shire community groups to help get the word out there to potential survey participants, who can fill out the survey questions online.

The survey is at bit.ly/3sKcXQc, or get in touch with the UNSW Beach Safety Research Group at beachsafetyresearch.com/contact-us

Scan this QR code to take the survey.

Scan this QR code to take the survey.

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