NSW records deadliest year for drowning deaths, report reveals

NSW records deadliest year for drowning deaths, report reveals
Image: 2021/2022 marks the equal deadliest year on record for NSW swimmers. Photo: Surf Life Saving NSW.


The past year has marked one of the deadliest years for swimmers in NSW’s coastal areas, with 55 people losing their lives to drowning. Coastal drowning deaths in NSW have risen by 30% on the 10 year average, a new report has revealed.

The 2022 NSW Coastal Safety Report recorded that 25 fatalities occurred on NSW’s beaches and coastal areas over the summer period, also making it the deadliest summer for the state on record. The report revealed that factors such as the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions and a return of international travellers to Australia meant that more people were back in the water.

55 people drowned in NSW waters this year, report reveals. Photo: Waverley Council.

Another trend highlighted by the report was a rise in deaths from rock fishing, with 11 people recorded to have lost their lives while fishing, up from 8 last year. Men were also statistically more likely to drown; 87% of deaths were male, and only 13% recorded were female.

28% of deaths were from swimmers, 20% were from rock fishing accidents, 13% from boating accidents, and 7% of deaths were caused by a fall.

Surf Life Saving NSW Director of Lifesaving Joel Wiseman warned swimmers to check water conditions before going out. 

“Regardless of what you’re doing on the water, it’s absolutely vital that you check the conditions prior to heading out, understand the environment you are entering, understand your own limitations and abilities, and ensure you are well-equipped should things go wrong,” Wiseman said. 

$1 million grant to save lives

NSW Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience Steph Cooke announced at the official beginning of the Surf Life Saving season that the government would provide $1 million in funding for Surf Life Saving NSW. 

“It’s going to be wonderful to see our volunteer lifesavers out again, particularly after the challenging years that we’ve experienced,” Cooke said.

Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience Steph Cooke speaking at podium,, with NSW Dominic Perrottet (right). Photo: Surf Life Saving NSW.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet, who also attended the beginning of the season event, urged swimmers to exercise caution when at beaches.

Every life lost is a tragedy,” Perrottet said. 

“Swim between the flags, make sure you supervise your children, wear a life jacket where it’s necessary, and if you do that, we’ll have fun and we’ll keep people safe.”

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