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Swimming Pool Laws - Who needs a nanny state?

All hail Miranda Devine and her rallying forces against the nanny state........ after all who needs a nanny state.... not me....and I'm sure not you!

So how dare a government attempt to protect a vulnerable section of our community like 0-5 year olds, especially by reviewing laws which Miranda acknowledges as good..."many lives have been saved and injuries prevented by good laws - the original Swimming Pool Act requiring pools be fenced was one and compulsory seatbelts and random breath tests were two more."

In her article "Nanny State helps drown us in our own stupidity" (Sydney Morning Herald 21 October 2009) Miranda claims that the proposed changes to the Swimming Pools Act are as a result of a spate of child drownings last year. Sorry Miranda, even a rudimentary amount of research would have revealed that that the review process was underway prior to last "summers spate of drownings". In fact the review of the Swimming Pools regulation was completed prior to last summers spate of drownings, and the legislative review was already flagged at that point.

Research would also have revealed that there was a reduction in the overall number of toddler drowning across Australia last year, but this was not the case in NSW, where there was an increase, it would also have revealed that the numbers have been trending upwards across Australia over the past few years.

The original Pool Fencing Laws, which it is acknowledged have saved lives, were full of loopholes about which pools did or did not need to be fenced, and contained miserable enforcement provisions.

Why is a pool constructed before 1990 any less of a hazard than a pool constructed after 1990, why is a pool on a small block of land any less of a hazard than a pool on an sized block of land?" The simple answer is that there is NO difference in the hazard regardless of where the domestic swimming pool is located.

While the proposed laws will remove a raft of exemptions, they will apparently leave the problem of pools constructed prior to 1990 still not requiring fencing, thus a large segment of NSW pool stocks will still be exempt from laws which are acknowledged as good and beneficial.

If the existing laws were as effective as Miranda would like to believe then the number of child related drowning or near drownings would be going down [why....because the number of swimming pools increases and most of the new pools are required to be fenced], This is simply not the case.

Miranda claims that "every time there is a terrible accident involving a child, there are calls for fences around dams, wharves and matter how impractical or futile."

It should be noted that at no stage has any reputable organisation involved in drowning prevention like Royal Life Saving, Kidsafe, Childrens Hospitals or indeed the Samuel Morris Foundation called for such measures. It is a sad reality that of all the toddler drowning deaths sixty percent of them occur in backyard swimming pools.

It should also be remembered that the whole purpose of the Swimming Pools Act, and the Australian Standard for Pool Fencing which it refers to is to prevent the drowning of children aged 0-5.

Miranda states that "No matter that almost all child drownings in backyard pools are the result of inadequate adult supervision, it's the fences that are the focus of government energies. " Maybe that is because there is empirical research evidence to demonstrate that four sided isolation pool fencing, combined with other identified strategies are effective methods to reduce toddler drowning deaths, and there is research evidence (and coronial findings) that in many of these cases the pool fence or gate has failed to provide the barrier that it is installed to provide.

Miranda also states that "It's just too hard to tell parents the bleeding obvious, which is that if their children are near a large body of water, fence or no fence, then there is no alternative but to watch them like a hawk; and it's not a task that can be outsourced or shared. Children will always find ways of getting around fences and no barrier is a substitute for human vigilance.",

All those involved in the drowning prevention area constantly put out the message that there is NO substitute for adult supervision, and call on parents to be vigilant when their children are in, near, on or around water sources, in fact parental supervision is THE core prevention message of all drowning prevention organisations(it is just hard to get media coverage for this message!).

I'm so glad that none of Miranda's readers who are parents and who have commented on her article are like "those parents" who are irresponsible enough to LET their child drown or be left permanently disabled by a near drowning. I admire those parent who commented on Miranda's article like "100% hands on mum" with their absolute resolve to keep their eyes on their children 24 hrs a day, I'm sure their child has NEVER been out of their site for the short amount of time it can take a child to drown, SILENTLY! I truly hope that nothing ever happens to their children, because it would be horrible to find themselves living in a glass house, after throwing stones!

Coincidentally I should declare an interest because as a parent I am allegedly one of "those parents" because my child is permanently disabled as a result of a near drowning. My wife and I will never get over the "what if" questions.

The reality is we are and were responsible parents who did watch our children as much as humanly possible, but it still happened to us, because of a fence that was faulty and was allowed to be faulty by a flawed system of laws and their enforcement, via a council who never completed the final inspection of the pool as required by a development consent, and by conveyancers, lawyers and real estate agents who never pointed out that the pool DA had never been finalised! But this does not diminish the "what if" questions for us as parents.

Pool fences are meant to be a last option in the hierarchy of prevention measures against toddler drowning, with adult supervision being number one, barriers preventing access to the water, teaching the children to swim and learning CPR following.

I do not know any parent who can honestly say that their children NEVER escape their supervision event momentarily, when a child does slip away, the pool fence is supposed to prevent them getting into the pool area and provide the additional time (which may only amount to seconds) for you to find them without allowing them to get into the pool.

To have pools that are not required to be fenced, pool fences that are not required to be maintained and inspected, fences with gaps that are too big which allow a child to climb under or through them, to have fences with things around them that can be used as makeshift ladders, or having pool gates propped open is the equivalent of having no fence.

Every year drivers in NSW are required to obtain a "pink slip" for their car to demonstrate it is roadworthy, and therefore does not represent a threat to others. Surely Miranda and her supporters would claim that this is aslo a nanny state response and if there is a law that says your vehicle has to be roadworthy then every responsible car owner would make sure they maintained their car to the roadworthy standard, and the government should not tell us we need to have our car inspected regularly to ensure it IS actually safe to operate.

Regular inspections of pool fencing and the regular periodic obtaining of a similar "slip" which would ensure that the pool fence was maintained in accordance with the standard, which I support, have been been called for by the NSW coroner, however this has been ruled out by the NSW Government. So effectively the proposed law, while appearing to make improvements, says you should have and maintain a fence but we won't check on it or enforce it (unless someone complains to council about it)

It could be argued that part of the reason that drowning numbers are trending upwards is because those fences that have been required to be installed have not adequately maintained or inspected, thus diminishing the effectiveness of them as a protective measure against toddler drowning.

For article commentator "Daphon" I was the person you listened to on the radio as allegedly "the man whose foundation is responsible for these new laws". I wish I had this level of influence, clearly I do not, otherwise the regular inspections that I support would be part of the proposed changes by the NSW Government. Changes come about by the actions of many organisations, some of which have been named above.

Contrary to your assertion Daphon I do not want an Orwellian vision of cctv monitoring every pool. I simply want the laws to do what they were designed to do. The Swimming Pools Act was designed to help prevent toddlers drowning. The evidence clearly demonstrates it is failing to do so, and therefore needs to be reviewed. The weakness in the existing law has been exemptions and the failure to provide for compliance checks, I simply seek to have enforcement provisions included in the law.

What do you think?............ leave your comments below.

This pre-school class isn't waving!

Imagine driving by your local preschool and seeing 32 children aged under five running around and having a good time.

Now imagine this class being wiped out by a single tragedy....... the headlines would be screaming for something to be done about it!

The sad reality is that in Australia the equivalent of this class is wiped out by a tragedy each and every year! It is just that in most circumstances it happens one child at a time.

The 2009 National Drowning Report compiled by Royal Life Saving Society Australia, was launched today at Parliament House in Canberra, by the Honourable Kate Ellis, Federal Minister for Early Childhood Education, Child Care and Youth and Minister for Sport. The Samuel Morris Foundation was represented at the launch, and has recorded a couple of media pieces for Royal Life in support of the launch.

The 2009 National Drowning Report revealed that in the last year another 32 children aged 0-4 lost their lives to drowning. Sixty percent of these deaths occurred in domestic swimming pools.

Most people think.... it would never happen to me I'm not one of "those parents" what were those parents doing while their child was drowning?.

It's a sad assumption to make...... if you want to know why read this story about those parents, Darcie was one of the lucky ones, her son got a second chance! Or click on the links in the right menu bar to some of the other first hand stories and their consequences.

The reality is for every drowning death in Australia there are another four children admitted to hospital following a near drowning and 1/5th of them will experience a brain injury that leaves them with disabilities for life.

So almost another pre-school class who will never experience life the same again!

What do you think we can ALL do to make our children safer in and around the water? And remember as Darcie says in her post....." Sometimes bad things just happen, to good people, to good parents even!"

I'd love to hear your views...

Pick Me Up

Not everything goes to plan, and sometimes you simply cannot tell what challenges are around the corner, or how some people will react to certain things... so this has been the thinking topic for a day or so!

Samuel Morris is back in hospital...... So the time spent with him bedside creates plenty of space to think and reflect.

We know that many families dealing with tragedy, or significant challenges can be faced with the issue of depression. Sometimes things just wear you down and you simple can't be bothered.

However this post from Zen Habits provides some practical hints for helping to pick yourself up.... just remember...I think that number 7 is probably the most important one... although you do need to make sure that you talk about it to someone who will understand, and has the skills to help you, and remember anyone can call themselves a "counsellor" so make sure if you are going to use a service they have some good training.

There is also some other good lists, tips and hints at the site..........

Take Care...It can be a jungle out there!

What a week - THANKS!

Well it's Friday and that brings to end a VERY busy week for the Samuel Morris Foundation.

On Saturday night (30 May), the Foundation was represented at the Childrens Hospital at Westmead Rehabilitation Department annual Emerald Ball. As part of the video presentation at the ball Samuel was featured in the footage following his recent surgery to insert his Baclofen pump, and Michael Morris' voice featured in the parts of the voice over of parents experiences in utilising the Rehab Department. It was great to meet another group of dedicated parents, and to see the support provided for the Rehab Dept that does such great work for disabled children.

On Tuesday night the Foundation was represented at the Penrith Local Business Awards were the Samuel Morris Foundation was a finalist in the Specialised Business category, we congratulate the winner in our category, and both the finalists and winners in the other categories.

On Wednesday night the Foundation was the beneficiary of fundraising at the Aquatic and Recreation Institute's 45th Annual Conference Dinner. The Foundation appreciates the support of the Institute, it's members and the attendees at the Conference Dinner for their contribution towards the Foundation's activities. We look forward to continuing to work with the institute and it's members in a long and fruitful relationship.

We would also like to thank the many attendees at the dinner who have offered support to the Foundation in a number of important ways. It was also great to catch up with representatives from Austswim, Royal Life Savings NSW Branch and Ripples.

Would YOU?

Would you let 35 children under the age of five drown every year, would you let another 28 children be left disabled and another 120 children be admitted to hospital ........ from a cause that can be readily stopped?

I'm pretty sure your answer would be NO, you wouldn't allow this to happen if it was in your power to stop it!

Thankfully it IS in your power to help stop it.... firstly is personal action at your household level... use this checksheet to make sure your pool area is safe, always keep your kids under direct supervision in, on, or around water sources, learn CPR and teach your kids good water skills.

Then at your local and state level.... for those of us in NSW and Queensland we currently have the best opportunity in almost the last 20 years to make changes to the Laws and Regulations that CAN and WILL make a big difference to the numbers listed above!

Both the New South Wales and Queensland Governments are reviewing their Swimming Pools Acts and are calling on public submissions to inform the legislative process.

The New South Wales review papers can be found here, and the Queensland paper here.

There has been some vocal opposition to some proposed changes in both states, with some pool owners resistant to potential cost and some local governments opposed to "additional work" . I guess you have to ask what cost a child's life, what additional work for parents (and the health system) for raising a disabled child?

Choice has demonstrated that pool fencing materials are also a major cause for concern, with a large number of fencing materials failing to meet the Australian Standard.

The Samuel Morris Foundation has made preliminary submissions to both Governments and is in the process of drafting its final submissions.

What do you think? What changes would you make to improve the safety of home swimming pools and prevent toddler drowning and near drowning incidents? We want to hear your thoughts!

Photo by Rickes

Another day another challenge!

Sometimes you have to wonder if there is any such thing as a routine day? While Samuel Morris has been recovering well from his surgery, a new challenge has emerged.

Many disabled children confined to their wheelchairs develop severe osteoporosis and become at serious risk of fractures. It has been clear for some time that Samuel has been in this category and there had already been discussion about possible treatment interventions such as biphosphonate infusion to improve his bone density. This issue is now a primary one as will be explained below!

Medical professionals also need to pay heed to the observations of parents (particularly in non communicative children), who after all do know their children the best! It was pointed out to some of the doctors that Samuels pain and discomfort did not appear to associated with the operation site or general movement but more specifically with the movement of one of his legs. Several requests were made to have his leg xrayed, but the doctors tried to assure us that the pain was associated with the surgery. After finally agreeing to have the xray done what did they find......... broken tibula and fibula in his left leg.

It seems that the breaks are as a result of the physical manipulation to determine his range of movement and improvement since the insertion of the Baclofen Pump. So I guess now we know the reason for his cries of pain and obvious discomfort.
So in addition to everything else Samuel now has a large splint on his left leg, and a bunch of new challenges in positioning him to make him comfortable (and not break any more bones!), whilst finding a solution to sitting him up and getting him mobile as he cannot be adequately positioned in his wheelchair! We know have the challenge of discussing treatment options to improve his bone density, and make this happen asap.

The Sun Comes Up: Even on the bad days

Samuel Morris is in the middle of his 24th hospital admission since his near drowning accident on the 9 April 2006. (average length of stay 7-10 days)

This admission to the Childrens Hospital at Westmead is for surgery to insert a baclofen pump to help manage his severe spasticity and dystonia. His operation took place on the 28th April, and he has been doing very well since the operation, but today was not such a good day, with Samuel unsettled and experiencing a lot of pain.

The pain is as a result of the surgery and associated bruising, not the intrathecal baclofen pump or the delivery of the drug, as we can already see some changes in Samuel's tone following the surgery and the commencement of the delivery of the drug into his spine, and the test dose that was given prior to arranging this surgery showed some significant results.

Days like these are the ones that really challenge any parent, and when these challenges are presented frequently, like they have been in Samuel's case and for the many children who are experiencing disability as a result of near drownings (or for that matter any other cause), they can be tough to deal with.

So today has not been a good one for Dad either! Like most parents whose children are disabled as a result of an accident there are always a million "what if" questions, an underlying sense that you have in some way failed your child by not adequately protecting them, that you have not done enough along the way to make them as good as they can possibly be, and then always wondering .... what next.

It can be really tough to learn to "sit with" these feelings and just accept that they are normal feelings and that it is OK be feeling them, and that they just have to be accepted for what they are.

While feeling like this I was going through some photos and found this one (above) that I took a while ago now, and despite the fact that I have been having a bad day, it made me think about this morning alongside Samuel's bed. The blinds were up in his hospital room, the sun was streaming in through the windows providing a nice warm glow and I had this simple thought..... you know what The sun comes up even on those shitty days! and I still have lots to be grateful for..... and I feel better!

Help Raise Money for Disabled Kids

Hi There,

Why not chip in and help us raise money to support children disabled by near drowning or other hypoxic brain injuries, and help us prevent future drowning deaths and disability. The money raised will be used to purchase equipment vital to the quality of life and daily care for these children, and to help raise awareness of vital drowning prevention and water safety messages.



Key Points

• Another toddler drowning in a backyard pool as the debate rages about tougher fencing laws
• Support for QLD taskforce report on pool safety laws
• CHOICE research highlights the need for integrated pool safety standards
• Contact for families who have experienced a near drowning

The QLD Governments Pool Safety Review Taskforce has released its report for public comment on the QLD Department of Infrastructure Planning website. The Samuel Morris Foundation was one of the many organisations which made submissions to the taskforce prior to the release of the report. The Samuel Morris Foundation supports all of the suggestions for improved pool safety contained in the report.

As was to be expected the report is generating some significant debate on this topic around the country.

Michael Morris, Managing Director of the Foundation said “sadly another two year old girl has lost her life to drowning in Thargomindah QLD over the weekend, at the same time that the debate rages over the QLD Governments moves towards tougher pool safety laws. It is exactly these types of tragedy that the Samuel Morris Foundation and other organisations are trying to prevent, and tougher pool safety laws are part of this solution, the QLD Governments taskforce report provides a clear path to improving the safety of all swimming pools, regardless of their location.”

Michael Morris said “research by consumer organisation CHOICE highlights that the issue of pool safety is one that needs to be dealt with in a whole of pool life-cycle approach.

CHOICE has identified that many products sold as pool fencing materials do not meet the Australian Standard which highlights the need for mandatory, rather than voluntary standards for pool safety products. Choice also reinforces the need for tougher pool laws by highlighting that pool fencing products need to be checked at the time of manufacture, at installation and at regular intervals after installation.

The Western Australian Government is the only government that currently mandates regular safety inspections after the installation of a pool. The Samuel Morris Foundation is calling on all Governments to review and strengthen pool safety laws and regulations to help prevent drownings in backyards. The risks associated with backyard pools are the same whether you are in Queensland or any other state, and we need consistent and mandatory safety standards and enforcement laws for pool safety around the country.”

The NSW Government is currently reviewing pool fencing laws, but unlike the QLD government has not sought input from stakeholders prior to commencing a review of the legislation. Other State Governments have yet to take action on this issue which contributes to on average, the loss of lives for 35 toddlers under the age of four, leaves approximately the same number of children with brain injuries that leave them with disabilities for life and results in around 140 other admissions to hospital for children in this age group EVERY year”

Mr Morris said “we are calling on the Governments around the country to immediately implement changes to the legislation associated with home pools to introduce mandatory CPR requirements for pool owners, as well as urgently introducing mandatory safety inspections and certification on a regular basis. According to the World Health Organisation (2008) and other research four sided isolation fencing and teaching parents and care-givers CPR skills are proven strategies for reducing drowning in the 0-4 age group.”

He said “the fact that there many different standards applied to swimming pools around the country is a parlous state of affairs. Governments continue to allow pools built prior to certain dates to remain unfenced, and do not have mechanisms for the ongoing mandatory enforcement of compliance for those pools that are required to be fenced, this means that tragedies such as those indicated above WILL continue to happen on an all too frequent basis”

Michael Morris said “as the parent of a child who is one of those left severely disabled as a result of near drowning, and as Managing Director of Australia’s only charity supporting children disabled by near drownings or other hypoxic brain injuries we know only too well the difficulties faced by near drowning survivors and their families, and the impact that these events have on the children’s wider community. It is a sad reality that for every child who dies as a result of drowning another four are admitted to hospital following near drownings and one fifth of those will be left with a brain injury that results in disabilities for life”

Jo-ann Morris said “we are trying to give every parent a wakeup call. All toddler drownings can be prevented. My son could be a normal little 5 year old a that would now be a quarter of the way through Kindergarten, having fun, running, playing, exploring, learning and growing. This is not so, and far too many families experience the grief of death or disability that we are experiencing. We don’t want what has happened to us to happen to another child and to devastate another family.”

Michael and Jo-ann Morris said “We also encourage anyone who has been touched by a child drowning death or near drowning experience to get in touch with the Samuel Morris Foundation to assist in building a network of people with similar experiences to support other families in similar circumstances, and to help continue to educate others about the importance of water safety”

Photo by Rickes'

What Next?

What expectations have you set? What are you trying to hold onto with those expectations? Are you trying to preserve the past, to bring back something that simply cannot be, or are you trying to hold on to a vision of the future that is probably unobtainable, and setting you up for disappointment?

One of the things that must be dealt with is this question of expectations vs acceptance of what is. In conversation (with my self) and indeed with many others I often find that it is either the holding on to what was, or attempting to define a future that cannot be controlled that is the cause of the greatest amount of angst.

However, when it is possible to sit with what is, and accept the present for what it is and to be wholly present NOW without worrying about what was or what is next, it just flows and there seems to be simple happiness, and no anxiety.

I could get all philosophical and talk about the buddhist concepts of grasping and letting go and walking the middle path, but I sometimes like song lyrics to explain it all, so to use some of the (selective) words from a couple of the legendary Van Morrison songs:

when everything falls into place like the flick of switch,
when everyone is upfront and they're not playing tricks,
when it's nobodys business the way that you want to live,
when you ring out the changes of how everything is,
when you don't need an answer there'll be days like this,

There's only here, there's only now!

Can you accept NOW, if not what's NEXT?

Bathtub near drowning - A safety reminder

Samuel Morris Foundation Managing Director, Michael Morris, said “the near drowning of a four year old girl in a bath in suburban Melbourne is a reminder that half of all drowning deaths in the 0-4 year age group occur in places other than backyard swimming pools, including bathtubs, rivers, creeks, ponds or other water sources”

Michael Morris said “the safety messages for preventing bathtub drownings are the same as the messages for preventing drowning in backyard pools, they are:

  • Supervision – children aged 0-4 should be supervised around any water sources, including during bath time, they should not be left alone to play in the bath
  • Effective Barriers – children should be restricted from access to full bathtubs, or any other source of water. Keep bathroom doors closed
  • Water Familiarisation – Bath time can and should be fun, but children should be taught not to go near water sources, including full baths, without a parent present.
  • Knowledge of CPR – knowing CPR and first aid may well be the difference between life and death if the unimaginable happens.

Michael Morris said “It is a sad reality that for every child who dies as a result of drowning another four are admitted to hospital following near drownings and one fifth of those will be left with a brain injury that results in disabilities for life. As the parent of a child who is one of those left severely disabled as a result of near drowning, and as Managing Director of Australia’s only charity supporting children disabled by near drownings or other hypoxic brain injuries we know only too well the difficulties faced by near drowning survivors and their families, and the impact that these events have on the children’s wider community. ”

Jo-ann Morris said “we are trying to give every parent a wakeup call. All toddler drownings can be prevented. My son could be a normal little 5 year old that would now be a quarter of the way through Kindergarten, having fun, running, playing, exploring, learning and growing. This is not so, he is trying to teach others to be aware of water safety and its dangers. We don’t want what has happened to us to happen to another child and to devastate another family.”

Michael and Jo-ann Morris said “We also encourage anyone who has been touched by a child drowning death or near drowning experience to get in touch with the Samuel Morris Foundation to assist in building a network of people with similar experiences to support other families in similar circumstances, and to help continue to educate others about the importance of water safety”

Photo by Krikit

Near Drowning Anniversary - Time for reflections

9 April 2009 marks the 3rd anniversary of Samuel Morris' near drowning accident. Like all anniversaries it prompts reflection about what has happened since the event that set in train the process of having anniversaries.

This anniversary is obviously tinged with sadness for all the Morris family and all those associated with Samuel. It is a further reminder of the loss of Samuel as a normal, fun loving and cuddly little boy, and the ever present reminder of his severe disabilities as a result of the accident.

Samuel will spend the anniversary visiting a neurosurgeon to discuss upcoming surgery required to help relieve his spasticity/dystonia stiffness and pain. This comes on top of today's news that the scoliosis in his spine has continued to significantly deteriorate and the surgery to correct this is urgenty required, and news that he has another bacterial colonisation on his already severely affected lungs.

Tragically the toll of toddler death and disability from drowning / near drowning has not stopped since Samuel's accident, although it is pleasing to note that there has not been a reported toddler drowning death or near drowning in Australia for over a month, which is good news as they usually happen on average every ten days.

The Foundation is concerned that with School Holidays and the Easter long weekend that this trend may not continue, as in previous years the month of April has seen a spate of toddler drownings/near drownings. So please if you have toddlers, or you know people with toddlers or school age children remind them about the importance of vigilance during this period.

Whilst many of us adults may consider that the water is getting too cold, it is still attractive to children. So please also heed the reminder to check the pool gates and fences, and the surrounding environment to ensure that there are not things around the yard that can be used to aid climbing the fences.

Today the Foundation contined it's visits to another family who is currently still in hospital going through the devastation associated with a near drowning that occurred several months ago. Young Joshua's family is showing tremendous courage in dealing with their situation, and providing a first hand account of their journey at the following blog . Their story will be familiar to anyone who has had dealings with a severe near drowning incident.

Whilst this anniversary will be sad it is also an opportunity to reflect on the good that has come from Samuel's tragic accident. Samuel inspired the formation of the Samuel Morris Foundation through his determination and strength to keep fighting despite his significant challenges.

Since starting the Samuel Morris Foundation many families have been assisted in providing vital equipment needed for the daily care and quality of life for their disabled children. The Foundation has formed significant partnerships, and continues to form new partnerships to strengthen the water safety and drowning prevention messages.

The Foundation has contributed to spreading the vital drowning prevention and water safety messages needed to help reduce toddler drowning deaths and disability.

The Foundation has lobbied and continues to lobby politicians at all levels of government to improve the legislation and regulations associated with home swimming pools, their certification, maintenance and ongoing inspection, and the need for pool owners to be armed with skills such as CPR.

The Foundation has also contributed to research at the Childrens Hospital at Westmead in an effort to help improve the treatment of children with hypoxic brain injuries which result from near drownings.

So while the day will be sad, it will also mark some progress in helping to battle the silent epidemic of toddler drowning / near drowning in Australia.

Your continued help in support of the Samuel Morris Foundation is greatly appreciated. Your help will assist in ensuring that some other families never experience the need to have an anniversary like the one Samuel and his family and friends are facing.

How can you help?

*Invite all of your friends to join the cause via the website or facebook

*Send a link to the Foundation website to all your family, friends and work colleagues

*Encourage your family, friends and work colleagues to make regular donations to the Foundation

*set up your own regular donation to the Foundation

We thank you in advance for your efforts in continuing to support the cause, and help us spread the message about the work we do.

Compared to What?

Have you ever thought "lifes hard"?

I know we all have at one time or another, but the words of Journalist, teacher and lecturer Sydney J Harris who is quoted as saying "When I hear somebody sigh 'Life is hard', I am always tempted to ask 'Compared to what?'" give pause for thought,

So what is the benchmark that you are making your comparison against when you think life is hard?

One of the most sobering places to check your benchmark is a visit to a childrens hospital or hospice, to realise that at any given time there are families struggling with dying or critically ill children, be it from drowning, seizures, cancers or any of the other miriad causes that result in these children being ill, and to realise that these challenges are going on twenty four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a yea, no breaks for weekends or public holidays.

These children display amazing courage despite the pain or other challenges they face, those that can... smile, those that can't.... tell you a picture with their eyes or just by their pure determination to hold on.

The families are grieving for what was, for what their children may never be and for the pain and suffering that their child is enduring, but nonetheless they are getting on with making things as good as they can possibly be. Many of these families are also very humble, they appreciate that as bad as their situation is, there are always others in a worse position, because they can see it.

So next time you are complaining that life is hard, we invite you to pause for a moment and consider the plight of the many children and families in childrens hospitals around the world, or to think of some other benchmark and reflect " is life really as hard as you thought?"

Photo by oimax

The confusing language of brain injuries

When confronted with your child having an hypoxic brain injury the doctors seem to be talking in their own special shorthand. This site , developed by people who have lived through brain injury first hand, is an excellent resource for interpreting doctor speak.

Knowing what the doctors are saying is a big help in getting to understand what the problem is, and can help you to start asking questions that you need to know!

We will post other useful links like this as we find them.

Image is a Registered Trademark of Samuel Morris Foundation Ltd and may not be reproduced without written permission

Penrith Festival and Ulysses parade - spreading the message

Today the Penrith festival and the AGM of the Ulysses Club are on in Penrith NSW. Thousands of people are visiting high street Penrith to see the vast array of stalls and activities including the street parade of over 1000 motorbikes.

The Samuel Morris Foundation is busy spreading the water safety and drowning prevention messages. We are handing out 100's of resuscitation brochures/charts from our partner Royal Life Saving, and working with Poolwerx to promote a safe pool environment and the maintenance of pool fencing, and working with Nepean Swim and Fitness to promote learn to swim and water survival skills.

Thanks to Nepean Swim and Fitness we are also giving away 10 CPR courses as part of todays event?

So have you checked your pool fence and gate lately to ensure it is safe? Do your children have the skills to be safe in the water? Do you ALWAYS supervise the children in and around the water? Do you know CPR in case the unimaginable happens?

What are you going to do about these today?

Courage - an unfolding story

The Samuel Morris Foundation knows only too well that near drowning accidents are far too frequent. In fact for every child that dies as a result of drowning there are three to four children admitted to hospital following near drownings and one fifth of these children will be left with a hypoxic brain injury that leaves them with disabilities for life.

Sadly young Joshua is one of those who is currently in hospital following a near drowning on 2 February this year. His family is displaying a great deal of courage as they deal with the uncertain consequences of Joshua's accident.

Joshua's mum, Wendy, is documenting Joshua's and their families experience through their blog which you can access here or via the links on the right of our page.

Many of the experiences that Wendy is documenting are so similar to the experience that Samuel went through, and other families also experience during this journey.

The Foundation admires the courage that Wendy and her family are showing during Joshua's journey, and we thank them for their willingness to share their story, and thank them for their permission to share links to their story.

Photo by Peasap

Fun Murals for Disabled Children and their families

The Samuel Morris Foundation has been supporting a project to liven up the environment for the many disabled children and their families that use the Child Assessment Centre, Childrens Hospital at Westmead.

The artist Ljae Elwell has been doing a great job of these murals, and the Foundation can't wait to see what she has in store for the treatment rooms!

Projects such as these are another way that the Foundation is working to improve the quality of life for children disabled by near drowning or other hypoxic brain injuries.

These projects also highlight the Foundations proven track record of working in partnership with organisations like the Childrens Hospital, as well as our strong partnership with Royal Life Saving. Some new partnerships will be announced soon!

These projects are only made possible by our generous individual and corporate donors, so if you have made a donation THANKS! If you haven't but would like to help bring some joy to disabled children, and also support our drowning prevention message please consider making a donation by visiting

A Good Death?

What makes a good death? How do you alleviate pain appropriately at end of life stage? What if it was your child suffering and death was to be the ultimate outcome, what would you do?

These are questions that parents of profoundly disabled children with life limiting illness or injury must inevitably confront. This ABC Background Briefing story and associated podcast provides some very interesting and thought provoking approaches to the question of what makes a good death.

Is a good death one without suffering? Is it one were suffering is minimised? Is it one that meets the direct needs of the child through palliation? Who has the right to speak for children with profound disabilities who are unable to speak of their own suffering?

Rights or not?

Esteemed legal practitioner Geoffrey Robertson makes a cogent argument for the establishment of a charter of rights in Australia in this SMH article. As he points out the Universal Charter of Human Rights is a good start (even if basic by neccessity).

As advocates for the quality of life for children disabled by hypoxic brain injuries, conventions to which Australia is a signatory provide some pause for reflection on the "rights" of children with a disability. The UN Convention on the rights of persons with a disability is one such document.

Section (r) Recognizing that children with disabilities should have full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children, ................, and
Section 20 (b) Facilitating access by persons with disabilities to quality mobility aids, devices, assistive technologies and forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including by making them available at affordable cost;

These are just two examples of obligations on the Australian Government as signatories to this convention.

How then can it be justified to make children wait extensive periods for access to wheelchairs or other mobility equipment. Particularly when such waits expose the children to potential further harm, and create other quality of life issues for the children and their carers?

Submission to Qld Government Pool Safety Review

The Foundation was recently invited to make a submission to the Queensland Governments "Pool Safety Review Committee" established by Queensland Premier Anna Bligh to examine changes to QLD legislation to reduce the rate of child drownings. The Foundation has finalised its submission, and will be invited to make further comment on the committees draft report. The submission will be made available as a link on the foundation website in the near future.

Kidsafe Forum and Communique

The Foundation took part in a forum organised by KIDSAFE Hunter on 12 Feb 09. This forum was a grouping of organisations such as the NSW Coroners Office, Surf Life Saving, Safe-T-gate, Swimming Pool and Spa Association, local Councils, SIDS and Kids and other community education/support groups and swimming pool safety equipment, manufacturers and suppliers. The Forum produced a "communique" to be distributed to politicians at all levels of government seeking changes to help reduce the rate of toddler deaths and near drownings. Click here to read the communique.

Appearance on Channel 9's Mornings with Kerri-Anne

Continuing our work with Royal Life Saving, Rob Bradley (RLSSA CEO) and Michael and Samuel Morris appeared on the top rating channel 9 program, Mornings with Kerri-Anne on Thursday 19th February. This appearance again highlighted the tragic stories of drowning and near drowning and reinforced the need for vigilance, and the resources available to help pool owners ensure that their pool is as safe as possible. Click here for the link to Kerri-Anne's page.

A scheme for helping children the Foundation Supports

A retiring NSW public servant, head of the Department of Disability, Ageing and Home Care, has voiced a "personal" opinion calling for a scheme to support the provision of equipment and services to people who are disabled through no fault of their own. This obviously includes children like those that the Samuel Morris Foundation is assisting, who are left disabled as a result of accidents at home. It is a shame that he waits until he is retiring to voice such a concern, and as Director General of one of the agencies who is responsible for providing services to disabled people, you would imagine that he was well placed to have been having this dialogue within government and be advocating for the clients his department served.

As he rightly points out in this article from the Sydney Morning Herald that in NSW there are schemes to support people disabled by car accidents and work related accidents, but people born with a disability or injured at home or due to other circumstances beyond their control etc , "have to fight for every service, and if they can eventually navigate the service system, there is still no guarantee their needs will be met".

And isn't it interesting how a public servant would advocate fraud to ensure his needs were met, whilst admitting that the needs of his clients are not being met.

An award winning organisation

The work of the Samuel Morris Foundation was recognised at the 2008 NSW Water Safety Awards, where the Foundation was awarded:

"The patrons award for the most outstanding contribution to water safety with a focus on an under represented group"

The Foundation has been working hard to have it recognised that there are a significant number of near drowning survivors who are left disabled as a result of their immersion. Too often media stories are either the reporting of a tragic death or a successful revival with no apparent ill effects on the child.

However it becomes apparent that no ill effects now does not neccesarily mean that a child will be left unscathed. Recent research is highlighting that a brain injury in children may expose them to an increased risk of epilepsy for over 10 years. Follow this link to the story.

The first drop.

A ripple effect is created when a surface tension is broken, this is the first drop in the surface tension of a blank space. And as we go we hope we can create a ripple of human kindness on the surface of humanity.

The Samuel Morris Foundaiton is Australia's only charity supporting children disabled by near drowning or other hypoxic brain injuries, and targeting drowning prevention.

Every year in Australia around 35 children aged 0-4 die as a result of drowning. For every one of these deaths it is reported that there are up to four children admitted to hospital following near drowning and one fifth of these children will be left with an hypoxic brain injury resulting in disabilities for life.

To see the work that the Samuel Morris Foundation does please visit