Just because the temperature has plummeted does not mean children are not at risk of drowning in backyard pools.
As the ACT government considers strengthening its legislation around home swimming pools, child safety bodies have banded together to this week launch a public awareness campaign warning of the danger of winter drownings.
The ACT Children and Young People Death Review Committee, Kidsafe ACT, and Royal Life Saving ACT want parents and carers to ensure children do not play unsupervised around pools, even when they are rugged up and have no intention of swimming.
Pool covers in particular can give the appearance of a pool being inaccessible, but they can sometimes entice children to walk or jump on them.
Over the past five years more than 150 Australian children under the age of five have drowned. Seven ACT children have drowned over the past decade.
Half of these deaths occur in home swimming pools and 15 per cent of these deaths occur in the colder months.
The executive director of Royal Life Saving ACT, Cherry O’Connor, said pool covers often provided parents with a "false sense of security in that they are a visual barrier to the pool. But if a child steps or lands on a cover, or a toy rolls onto the cover, it can have disastrous effects".
Ms O'Connor said in a number of tragic cases, children had been trapped underneath the pool cover and parents had been searching for them but had not seen them.
"We can't repeat the message too many times; pools are dangerous no matter what the weather is like," she said. "Pool safety messages are often associated with hot weather but we need to be vigilant all year round."
She also urged parents not to put off swimming lessons over the colder months, noting a number of swim schools operated in heated indoor pools.
Chairwoman Penny Gregory of the Children and Young People Death Review Committee said: "During the winter months, particularly in Canberra, swimming pools are probably the last thing on our minds.
"Just because it is freezing outside doesn't mean that the pool is not enticing to a child who's lost a ball, found a dead beetle, or been issued a dare."
The chief executive of Kidsafe ACT Eric Chalmers urged safety checks around home pools.
"A proper pool fence is vital, but even the best fence will be useless if the gate is propped open, if the latch doesn’t work, or if climbable objects such as outdoor chairs or barbecues are beside the fence," he said. "Pool fences are only part of the equation, and nothing beats common sense and good supervision."
The ACT government is shortly expected to crack down on domestic swimming pools with the introduction of regular pool inspections and a territory-wide register.
The new regulations are part of a 2011 discussion paper from the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate, which also proposes passing pool inspection costs on to the property owner.
The reforms are supported by Royal Life Saving ACT.
Pool fencing was first mandated on new constructions in 1970 but any pools built before that date are not required by law to have a fence.
New pools are expected to have fences, but there are no legislated requirements for regular inspections.
In 2007, there were 5900 households in the capital territory with a swimming pool.