Surf Life Saving Australia is Australia’s peak coastal water safety, drowning prevention and rescue authority.
This is extended into known drowning blackspots in order to achieve the Australian Water Safety Strategy goal of a 50% reduction in coastal drowning deaths by 2020.
Our research initiatives include projects focused on rip current safety issues, development of a rocky coast hazard ratings, development of a standard for low-buoyancy lifejackets, evaluation of safety in surf sport, assessment of adaptions to cope with climate change and general drowning and injury epidemiology.
Rip currents are the number one hazard on Australia’s coastline. They account for more deaths per year than sharks, floods and cyclones combines (Brander et al., 2013). SLSA’s National Coastal Safety Surveys revealed that most Australians view rip currents as dangerous. However, two-thirds of beachgoers are not able to identify a rip, and two out of three people who think they can identify a rip, cannot do so correctly.
Young males (16-39 years) are highly represented in the drowning statistics. SLSA undertook behavioural insights research into this high-risk group to better understand their perception of hazards and what motivates them to follow water safety procedures. The findings suggest young men believe they know enough about coastal safety and they are doing enough to remain safe. However, this is not necessarily the case.
The research has been used to inform a long-term public safety campaign to raise awareness about rips and to influence people’s behaviour about rips. It busts the common myths associated with beach safety and highlights that young males (16-39 years) are most likely to drown in a rip.
A blackspot is an area with a concentration of coastal/ocean incidents and a high probability or risk of ongoing recurrence. Surf Life Saving Australia has identified the local government areas (LGAs) listed below as blackspots and has distributed funding to projects in these areas. These LGAs are priorities for conducting coastal risk assessments and implementing drowning prevention activities via the Beach Drowning Reduction Program.
NSW: Byron Shire, City of Coffs Harbour, City of Randwick, City of Wollongong, Sutherland Shire, Northern Beaches Council, Central Coast Council, Waverley, Tweed Shire, Bega Valley Shire, City of Shoalhaven.
QLD: Sunshine Coast Council, City of Gold Coast, Cairns Region
VIC: Shire of Bass Coast, City of Greater Geelong
WA: City of Stirling, City of Rockingham, City of Busselton, Town of Cambridge, City of Joondalup
SA: City of Victor Harbor
TAS: City of Clarence
NT: City of Darwin
Omnipoll Market Research has been contracted by SLSA since 2014 to help gain insights into the behaviours and perceptions within the coastal environment. Past annual surveys have collected responses from 16-69 year old people within Australia and is post-weighted to reflect population distributions in each state and territory. The data collected through the survey includes general demographics, geographic strata, swimming ability, participation trends, hazard perception and safety practices. The information is currently disseminated through the National Coastal Safety Report and the National Rip Current Strategy, as well as building a valuable long-term resource that supports our evidence-based Total Service Plan. These studies are carried out in compliance with AS-ISO 20252 – Market, Social and Opinion Research.
Ipsos Social Research Institute has helped SLSA identify and develop strategies for the top four coastal safety agendas; rip currents, rock fishing, boating and watercraft. Through qualitative and quantitative analysis, the research expanded on our existing understanding of coastal visitors and participants, including the factors affecting incidents in the water.
These insights further instigated behavioural change frameworks for each of the key audiences and specialised communication plans for achieving a reduction in drowning fatalities around the coast of Australia.
The National Coastal Safety Report provides a detailed analysis of annual and long-term coastal drowning deaths. As the nation’s peak coastal water safety, drowning prevention and rescue authority, SLSA undertakes research to understand what, where and when these coastal drowning deaths occur. In 2015-16 drowning death sadly increased by 24% compared to the year before with males again accounting for the bulk (89%) and swimming/wading remaining the highest activity when a drowning death occurs.
Surf Life Saving volunteers and lifeguards conduct thousands of rescues around Australia’s coastline every year. But when there are no lifesavers, bystanders often jump in when someone gets in trouble. Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) and the University of NSW have started a joint research project to get an insight into the where, who, how and why of these bystander rescues. With this information SLSA can produce a targeted communication and resources plan to keep as many people safe as we can, even on beaches we cannot patrol.
Surf Life Saving Australia has provided support and expertise to many allied lifesaving organisations across the globe. Contributing to the International Life Saving Federation’s global effort to reduce injury and death in, on, or around water, Surf Life Saving exchanges information and best practice and supports the establishment of lifesaving services in areas of the world where they are needed.