Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
Water Safety cannot be ignored just because it is winter: Samuel Morris Foundation

Key points:

• Severe impacts on children, siblings and families
• New evidence that near drownings are showing a significant upward trend
• Call for increased awareness around ALL water sources
• Call for all parents to learn CPR

The near drowning of a toddler this afternoon at Pendle Hill, NSW, is a drastic reminder that water safety, particularly for 0-4 year olds, is a year round concern, and a reminder that just because a pool is fenced it is not safe and all fencing requires ongoing inspection and maintenance.

Samuel Morris Foundation Managing Director, Michael Morris said that non-fatal drowning accidents take a great toll in terms of creating disability within the community.

"For every child that dies as a result of a drowning another four are admitted to hospital following near drownings and almost one quarter of these children will experience a brain injury that leaves them with disabilities for life," Mr Morris said.

“Unfortunately recent evidence suggests that both the drowning rate and the near drowning rate are on an upward trend. The 2009 National Drowning report showed an increase in the toddler drowning rate over five year average and recently figures show an alarming increase in the number of near drowning presentations to emergency departments.

“We should remember that 59% of child drownings occur outside of the summer months, so just because it is winter and backyard pools are not attractive to adults they are still attractive to children.”

Samuel Morris Foundation co-founder Jo-Ann Morris said that drowning and near drownings can have a devastating effect:

"One minute the child is normal and then the next the child may be dead or left severely disabled due to a brain injury from lack of oxygen, with the consequences lasting a life time and affecting the whole family and their community. It can take a family a very long time to adjust to a tragedy like this; unfortunately many marriages will not survive this amount of upheaval and trauma.”

Mr Morris said that these tragedies can also have a significant impact on siblings, extended family and friends and the broader community, as many people know the children involved.

"These events also have a significant impact on the emergency services and hospital staff involved in resuscitation and critical care efforts," he said.

"While 60 percent of toddler drowning deaths occur in backyard swimming pools, we also want to remind people that any water source can be a potential danger, including dams, rivers, creeks and any large container that can hold water.”

To help reduce the number of child drownings the Samuel Morris Foundation wishes to reinforce the four key messages of the “Keep Watch” program from our partner Royal Life Saving, which is supported by the Samuel Morris Foundation:

• Supervision – always try to keep children at arms reach when in or around any water source
• Restricting Access – put a barrier around the water, and ensure that the barrier is correctly installed and well maintained. Barriers such as pool fencing are the last line of defence in preventing toddler drowning. Or create a fenced off safe play area adjacent to the house on larger rural properties.
• Water Familiarisation – help your child to be familiar with the water and associated risks and learn water survival skills by enrolling them in learn to swim classes
• Learn Resuscitation – if the unimaginable happens…. Parents or carers are usually the first to make the tragic discovery. Knowing CPR can be vital until professional help arrives, and may make the difference between life and death.

The Foundation also encourages all pool owners to visit or to download a check sheet to help them inspect their own pool environment to make it as safe as possible.

Background Information

The Samuel Morris Foundation was established following the near drowning of Samuel Morris in April 2006. Samuel Morris has been left with severe disabilities and ongoing medical complications as a result of the near drowning. Samuel has been admitted to hospital 39 times since the near drowning for a range of ongoing complications resulting from the near drowning.

The Samuel Morris Foundation:

• provides equipment to assist in the care and quality of life for children disabled by near drowning/hypoxic brain injuries,
• fosters and promotes research into the prevention, causes, treatments and outcomes for children disabled by near drowning or other hypoxic brain injuries and associated disabilities,
• assists families to provide for the care/treatment of their disabled children, and
• participates in drowning prevention campaigns around the country.

Royal Life Saving CEO Rob Bradley says that he “applauds the efforts and endeavours of The Samuel Morris Foundation”.

The Samuel Morris Foundation was awarded the “Patrons award for the most significant contribution to water safety with a focus on an under-represented group” at the 2008 NSW Water Safety Awards.

Full information on the foundation can be found at

For interviews regarding the issues surrounding the experience of families of near drowning survivors, or interviews to reinforce pool safety messages please contact:

Michael Morris on 0404 552 429 or email [email protected]

Contact Profile

Samuel Morris Foundation

The Samuel Morris Foundation is Australia's only charity supporting children disabled by near drowning or other hypoxic brain injuries and preventing future drowning death and disabilities through education and awareness.
Michael Morris
P: 0404 552 429

Jo-ann Morris

P: 0422 340 916


drowning, near drowning, disability, water safety, pool fencing, keep watch



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