Backyard pool drowning


There is strong agreement across our respondents that drowning in backyard pools is an important, but chronic problem. 80% think it is important, but only 15% agree it has got worse over the last 10 years. This suggests that it is an important, but probably not urgent, issue to most.

717 completed surveys were received by the deadline with a further 6 received after.

We dissected responses by voting intentions, age, gender, dwelling type and pool ownership. While there were small differences between response rates it appears that the community tends to agree on causes and remedies, irrespective of factors which might have predisposed them to one view or another.

The importance of the issue is largely because:

  • It involves children
  • It is preventable

Respondents believe that the responsibility for preventing drownings rests with parents more than pool owners (78%). They have little faith in pool fencing on its own, and tend to believe that in cases where pool fencing is at fault inspections at any frequency will make little difference.

Accordingly their favoured solutions to the problem are:

  • Education of parents (66% rated as first or second most important)
  • Subsidised swimming lessons for toddlers (46% rated as first or second most important)

Their least favoured solutions are annual inspections (60% ranked last or second last most important) and four-yearly inspections (72% ranked last or second last most important). Their responses suggest that they favour pool fencing as a measure, but that they tend to assume that in most cases it is in place.

Some respondents also suggested a couple of other solutions which might be useful. These were:

  • Mandatory education in pool safety and first aid techniques for new pool owners
  • Education for parents in CPR.


Why is it an important issue?

"In general, I regard the unnecessary death of any child as a tragedy." (Female, 65-74, Very Important)

"I find it unacceptable when the risks are well known and these drownings are totally preventable." (Female, 25-34, Very Important)

"Pool fences didn't solve the problem. Teaching kids to swim would go much further. Also parental responsibility seems to have been passed to ALL of us, not just those with kids. I'd like to know the real statistics" (Female, 55-64, Very Important)

"Pools should be treated like driving a car-- need a licence, need first aid, and need to be vigilant-- aslo all kids need to know how to swim." (Female, 55-64, Very Important)

"Parents should be responsible. Are all roads fenced? No! and children aren't being run over. Are the Ocean or dams fenced? No! and children aren't drowning regularly. Why are pools the exception? How long before we have to fence buckets of water" (Male, 45-54, Unimportant)

"Any childs death from accident is concerning to me. Its important, but noting its hard to prevent totally, I am not sure I could rate the issue higher. Road deaths and abuse are higher order issues" (Male, 35-44, Important)

"It is a multifaceted issue. I think children will always be drowning in water - they love playing in water - parents cannot and do not supervise them 100% of the time. You can put down a thousand rules about pools and water - children will still drown." (Female, 45-54, Important)

"If one puts in a pool, one is responsible for one's own and visitors' children. Neighbour's kiddies are the responsibility of the neighbour to prevent the kiddies from straying, i.e. trespassing in other's yards." (Female, no age, Neither important nor unimportant)

"Every pool drowning is very sad but all the laws, regulations, mandated annual inspections etc will not achieve a significant reduction over time. All the talk re the above is media beat up and govt wanting to be seen to be doing something." (Male, 55-64, Neither important nor unimportant)

What is the most important factor

"It is the 0-5% factor - that moment in time when all the odds are stacked. Some things in life are like that." (Female, 45-54, Important)

"People do not watch their kids or have not taught them to survive if they fall in the pool." (Female, 55-64, Important)

"Children will always gravitate towards pools of water that cannot be stopped. Supervision of children is important but sometimes events occur that are not anybody's fault." (Female, 65-54, Important)

"Lack of parental supervision and children should be taught to float or swim at a VERY EARLY AGE" (Male, 65-74, Very Important)

"i believe most drownings occur because of a lack of supervision and pure bad luck?I say this because children can be very resourceful and persistant and it only takes a minute and it's too late." (Male, 45-54, Very Important)

"sheer stupidity brought on by complacency by the idiots who believe children can't climb, aren't attracted to water, and a shitty little fence is all they need to do" (Male, 45-54, Very Important)

"Lack of education and awareness - victim families seem to have had a false sense of security, with a need for research into how kids normally get unobserved access and development of better preventative and warning devices, even if 'unsightly'." (Female, 55-64, Very Important)

Possible solutions

"An education programm in schools. A stricter examination of the fencing surrounding the pools. The employment of pool fencing inspectors as their only duty." (Male, 65-74, Very Important)

"Introduce amendments if the Act needs strengthening. Otherwise ensure that local councils are policing the legisltion or provide more resources to do that and educate people with pools re their responsibilities." (Female, 55-64, Very Important)

"Education campaign directly targeting pool owners. Most pool fences work just fine already." (Female, 45-54, Very Important)

"Educate everyone. No-one wants to take responsibility for their lack of action be it the pool owner, the parent of the child. Everone has a role in protecting children, no one more so than the parents." (Male, 55-64, Very Important)

"Responsibilty is the answer. Heavy fines for inadequate fencing - involuntary manslaughter the charge if the child dies" (Female, 65-74, Very Important)

"limit pool ownership to those people who could pass a safety tests (ie. resuscitation + pool safety rules) Prosecute carers who allow children to have unsupervised access to pools" (Female, 55-64, Very Important)

"Seriously I agree with yealry inspections. If you can afford the pool you can afford a small feee for the inspection. A family should have to show they have all completed CPR courses before the pool is approved." (Male, 35-44, Very Important)

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0 #1 CommentSandra 2009-01-31 17:58
Could a survey be done to accommodate public opinion to education young people to understand about divorce and custody problems and the effect it can have on the participants the children and grandparents. In general a better understanding of life and living together.

Could this be built into social awareness in high schools? I have no religious affiliation in regard to this and I write only after the tragic death of the little girl thrown from the bridge in Melbourne.

What pushed that man to do that terrible act. How could it have been avoided. How can people be helped before the problems start.

It is just a thought.

0 #2 CommentReg 2009-02-01 21:52
Greens may seem to be over represented because, like me and quite a few of my friends, some who want Labor to win government, give their first prefernce to the Greens and second preference to Labor knowing that Labor will ultimately get the vote. This is simply to send a message to the Labor Party that it needs to maintain sound environmental policies.