Indians Account for Highest Proportion of Australian Beach Drownings

By Jessie Zhang
Jessie Zhang
Jessie Zhang
Jessie Zhang is a reporter based in Sydney covering Australian news, focusing on health and environment. Contact her at
January 26, 2022Updated: January 26, 2022

A study has found migrants make up nearly half of drownings on Australian beaches in the past 17 years, with Indians accounting for the highest number between 2009-2019.

In the first multicultural examination of beach safety among a particular community, the University of New South Wales’s (UNSW) Sydney Beach Safety Research Group found that migrants from South Australia were receiving inadequate information about beach safety.

Of the 249 respondents from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan to Pakistan, the online survey found that while half did not know how to swim, many still intended to go into the water and many often went in fully clothed.

More than half said they had visited unpatrolled beaches.

Study co-author Rob Brander said that language barriers also caused them to miss vital beach safety education.

“The standard beach safety messages we use, such as ‘swim between the flags’, may not resonate with new migrants,” Brander said in a media release.

Epoch Times Photo
Surf rescue workers instruct swimmers to move away from the northern end of the beach at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia on January 16, 2022. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

Neither were they able to spot rips.

“But it’s not their fault they’re not familiar with beach safety, whether it’s through lack of English or lack of exposure to the things we take for granted growing up in Australia, like swimming lessons, the dangers of surf, and how to spot rips and how to cope if you’re caught in one,” Brander said.

“They haven’t been taught properly and now there’s evidence to support the need to do more about this in their communities.”

The participants of the survey also said that 60 percent of the existing amount of beach safety information was either not good or needed to be increased, making it important to translate beach safety information correctly into the native languages of South Asian migrants.

Lead author Woods said their study really identified just how more at risk the South Asian community is when they go to the beach.

“The clear implication here is that new and recent migrants to Australia should be a central focus for learn-to-swim programs and beach safety education,” Woods said.

Recent research from the Royal Life Saving Australia’s latest drowning report found that over 80 percent of all drowning deaths were male, with migrants more likely to drown when swimming or rock fishing at beaches and around rocks, in comparison with those born in Australia.

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