The federal government wants to boost water safety awareness as new figures show there were 266 drownings in Australia in 2013/14.

Gold medal winning Olympic swimmer Matt Cowdrey knows the pain of losing a loved one to drowning.

Australia’s most successful Paralympian was about 10 when he lost his uncle in a fishing accident.

“You learn from that. It was always a big part of my life growing up, learning how to swim,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Cowdrey was encouraging parents to make swimming lessons and water supervision a priority as the Royal Life Saving Society released its annual report on drownings at Parliament House on Tuesday.

Sports Minister Peter Dutton said the 266 deaths were too many, although there were 29 fewer drownings in 2013/14 than the previous year.

Of particular concern were the 105 drownings in rivers, creeks, lakes and dams.

“The (water safety) message is as important in the bush as it is at the beach,” Mr Dutton said.

People should not drink alcohol and swim and they should wear life jackets on boats, learn CPR and life-saving skills and maintain pool fences.

The federal government is putting $4 million towards increase awareness about inland drowning risks.

Royal Life Saving chief executive Justin Scarr said men drowned at four times the rate of women.

Alcohol, reluctance to use life jackets and ignoring weather warnings when boating and fishing were big factors.


* 266 (215 males, 51 females)

* 105 in inland waterways.

* 39 in pools

* 34 at beaches

* 21 baths or spas

* 20 washed off rocks

* 32 ocean/harbour

* 15 other

* Alcohol was a factor in 47 drownings.


* NSW 90 drownings

* Qld 60

* Vic 47

* WA 30

* SA 14

* NT 13

* Tas 10

* ACT 2


1. Murray River, Vic, SA, NSW

2. Brisbane River, Qld

3. Yarra River, Vic

4. Swan River, WA

5. Hawkesbury River, NSW

6. Murrumbidgee River, NSW

7. Sandy Creek, Qld

8. Derwent River, Tas

9. Katherine River, NT

10. Macquarie River, NSW