Strategy to stem drowings

Daneka HillNorth West Telegraph
Local workers in the sports, education, health, tourism and travel sectors were apart of the all-day water safety forum
Camera IconLocal workers in the sports, education, health, tourism and travel sectors were apart of the all-day water safety forum Credit: North West Telegraph, Daneka Hill

Information from a brainstorming session in Port Hedland will be used to create a locally tailored water safety strategy in response to an increasing number of drownings in the Pilbara.

The mission to come up with a plan was headed by the Royal Life Saving Society during a recent visit to Port Hedland where different agencies were asked to come up with ideas suited to the local environment.

Port Hedland was chosen for the one-off session because of its unique circumstances, including extreme weather events and surrounding gorges in national parks.

Department of Fire and Emergency Services Pilbara Superintendent Peter McCarthy said the linking of agencies across the region to share ideas and perspectives was beneficial.

“Teaching kids to swim is at a point, now we are starting to introduce the hazards of water, specifically in the Pilbara,” he said.

Those most at risk in the Pilbara have been identified as people under the influence of alcohol, visitors to the region, males, and indigenous Australians.

Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions officer Jamie Gaults said drowning deaths in the Pilbara — 16 from 2007-2017 — needed addressing on a broad scale.

“From a parks perspective there is not an awful lot of awareness of the dangers of drowning in national parks in the Pilbara,” he said.

The last incident in a national park was two years ago when a man jumped from the top of Python Pool in Millstream National Park and broke both his ankles.

Royal Life Saving Australia president Cameron Eglington delivered the opening speech with Pilbara Aboriginal Voice co-chair Linda Doogiebee-Dridi and Karriyarra senior Elder Alfred Barker.

RLSSWA health promotion and research senior manager Lauren Nimmo said the forum would be followed by consultations with Aboriginal groups which represented people statistically twice as likely to drown compared to non-indigenous Australians.

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