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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'

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