The ACT government is calling on all Canberrans to become backyard lifeguards this summer in a campaign aimed at decreasing drowning deaths in the ACT.
The campaign addresses a recommendation from a coronial inquest following the death of 21-month-old River Arama Parry, who died after he was pulled from an unfenced pool in Fisher on December 30, 2015.
In November, Coroner Beth Campbell found a lack of supervision was a key factor in the boy's drowning, but said the tragedy highlighted broader public safety concerns stemming from the ACT's pool fencing laws, which she described as inadequate and confusing.
Her findings also included a recommendation for a public awareness campaign on the importance of supervising children near backyard pools, and to highlight the importance of life-saving skills, in the lead-up to summer.
Minister for Planning and Land Management Mick Gentleman said the Backyard Lifeguard campaign addresses this second recommendation.
"In the ACT the home swimming pool is the most common location for drowning deaths and injury for people under the age of five," Mr Gentleman said.
"It's not only kids that live in houses with swimming pools, it's kids of friends and relatives that are visiting, or kids from neighbouring properties that are also at risk.
"So as a community we're all responsible for safety around pools and together we can reduce the risk of kids drowning in swimming pools in the ACT."
Four of the 32 drowning deaths recorded in the ACT in the past 16 years were in a backyard pool.
The campaign calls on the community to closely supervise children in and around pools, learn how to resuscitate, ensure pool barriers met current legislation and ensure pool gates were shut at all times.
Mr Gentleman said teaching children to swim and be safe around pools was also a priority.
He said he would talk to education minister Yvette Berry about the issue of further funding for school-based swimming programs.
"Our schools are active in swimming lessons for kids," he said.
"And while that's a matter for the education department I will be working with the education minister on that program as well."
He said the ACT government was committed to increasing the safety of children around backyard pools and would roll out the large-scale campaign over the summer months.
Mr Gentleman said the government was still working on streamlining pool fencing laws, in particular how older pools, which met safety codes of the time, could be brought up to date without excessive costs to owners.
"We're looking at ways that we can bring in legislation to ensure [older pools] comply," he said.
"We realise there could be a financial burden and so we're looking at ways to ease that."
Mr Gentleman said the process could go through more community stakeholder consultation before any legislation changes were made.
For a checklist of general information about pool safety head to planning.act.gov.au/backyardlifeguard/home
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