Media Release


State Coroner and Olympic Champion Close the Gate on Backyard Pool Drowning



The Victorian State Coroner, Judge Sara Hinchey, and Australian Swimming Champion Matt Welsh joined Kidsafe to 'Close the Gate on Backyard Pool Drowning' this morning at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre in Albert Park.

Drowning is one of the leading causes of death for Australian children under 5 years of age. In 2015/16, 21 Australian children aged 0-4 years drowned.

Backyard swimming pools are the most common location where toddler drowning incidents occur.
In 2015/16, over half of all toddler drowning incidents in Australia occurred in a backyard pool (11 incidents - 52%).

Left: Kidsafe Victoria Vice President, Robert Caulfield; Ambulance Victoria Michelle Murphy; Bill Weir MFB;
Matt Welsh Olympic Champion; Lauren Newton; Judge Sara Hinchey State Coroner with Eva, Lola,
Sam  and Monty at the Closing the Gate campaign launch this morning at Albert Park.

Kidsafe's 'Closing the Gate' campaign, which is entering its fourth year, calls on pool owners to check the safety of their pool barriers and gates at the beginning of daylight saving on Sunday 2nd October, in the lead up to the warmer months.

Victorian State Coroner, Judge Sara Hinchey, said that while the number of toddler (0-4 years) drowning incidents has decreased from 2014/15, there is still much work to be done.

'The tragedy of a drowning incident can have a lifetime impact on family and friends. For every drowning death involving a child in Victoria there are also a further 12 non-fatal incidents, many of which result in a child receiving permanent brain damage.'

'One childhood drowning incident is one too many', said Judge Hinchey.

Swimming champion Matt Welsh urged the owners of over 1.3 million backyard pools across Australia to join the Kidsafe 'Closing the Gate' campaign and check the safety of their pool barriers.

'Today we are urging all swimming pool owners to take action over the next seven days to check the safety of their pool barriers, gates and surrounding areas. It's important that they immediately repair any faults to help ensure that their pool and spa areas are safe.'

'Children drown quickly and silently. Together with a compliant pool barrier, it is important that children are always actively supervised by an adult when around water to help keep them safe. For toddlers, this means an adult being within arm's reach at all times', said Mr Welsh.

Whilst research has shown pool fencing, particularly isolation fencing, to be effective in reducing the risk of drowning, evidence suggests that a large number of child drowning incidents occur as a result of pool fencing that is faulty or non-compliant with Australian Standards.

Kidsafe Victoria Vice President, Robert Caulfield said, 'All pool and spa barriers will experience exposure to extremes of weather and wear and tear over time including rust, missing bolts or screws and damage. Therefore it is important that they are regularly checked and maintained.'

Life Saving Online Kidsafe Resources for Pool Owners
The campaign calls for all pool and spa owners to visit and utilise the online resources, including the home pool safety assessment tool developed by Life Saving Victoria, to check the safety of their pool areas.

This includes common pool barrier faults/non-compliance issues such as:
  • Gates that don't self-latch or self-close.
  • Climbable objects in the 'non climbable' zone outlined in the Australian Standards (e.g. pot plants, chairs, pool pumps near the pool fencing which could allow a child to climb over the fence).
  • Excess space under the fence, and;
  • Misuse (e.g. propping the pool gate open).

  • The Closing the Gate campaign is supported by the Victorian State Government's 'Play it Safe by the Water Campaign' and a number of industry partners, including:
  • Kidsafe
  • Royal Life Saving Society of Australia (RLSSA)
  • Lifesaving Victoria (LSV)
  • Victorian Building Authority VBA)
  • Ambulance Victoria
  • Department of Justice and Regulation
  • Consumer Affairs Victoria

    Media Enquiries:
    Ron Smith, Kidsafe Victoria - Mobile: 0417 329 201