Victorian Water Safety Strategy 2021-25

Department of Justice and Community Safety
15 Dec 2021

About this strategy

Victoria should be proud of its mature water safety sector, and its achievements over many years in reducing water related fatalities. However, in 2018‑19, Victoria reported the highest drowning toll in 20 years, with 56 reported fatal drowning incidents, an increase of 17 deaths compared to the 10‑year average. Sadly, 2020‑21 has again seen a significant drowning toll in Victoria with 61 reported fatal drowning incidents.

In response to the increase in drowning deaths and the expiry of the Victorian Water Safety Strategy 2016‑2020 (“VWSS 2016‑20”), the Minister for Police and Emergency Services convened a government‑led Water Safety Taskforce (WST). The WST was tasked with addressing the increase in drowning by collaborating on a new water safety strategy for Victoria.

The development of this Victorian Water Safety Strategy 2021‑2025 (“VWSS 2021‑25”) was commissioned by the WST, in partnership with Emergency Management Victoria. It is designed to be a whole‑of‑government strategy, coordinating effort across key agencies and stakeholders to achieve better water safety outcomes.

The VWSS 2021‑25 sets a vision to:

Encourage more Victorians to safely participate and enjoy recreation in and around water, while reducing the number of drownings and water‑related injuries to zero.

This vision continues the ambition of the previous strategy, the VWSS 2016‑20. The Appendix of this report provides a summary of Victoria’s progress against the aim and goals of this previous strategy.

In March 2020, the new Australian Water Safety Strategy 2030 was also launched. This national strategy plays an essential role in national, state and territory, and community approaches to preventing drowning and promoting safe use of the nation’s waterways and swimming pools. It outlines various key activities across five different components of water safety risk: people, places, activities, risk factors and populations.

The VWSS 2021‑25 draws on the principles of the national strategy, however, takes a different approach to prioritising effort and resources. This strategy identifies priority areas and actions targeted at emerging water safety risks and opportunities rather than setting actions for each of the various components of risk. This approach provides Victoria with practical and targeted water safety priorities, tailored to the Victorian context.

The VWSS 2021‑25 will be supported by the development of an action plan that provides a detailed set of initiatives aligned to each of the strategic priorities. The action plan will also describe the sequencing and timelines for initiatives, as well as the roles different parties will play in delivery.

Our vision

Encourage more Victorians to safely participate and enjoy recreation in and around water, while reducing the number of drownings and water‑related injuries to zero.

The challenge: Water safety risks are increasing

  • More Victorians are spending leisure time in and around waterways
  • More people are using recreational vessels, often with less experience
  • Learn to swim and water safety education is under some pressure

The way forward: Improved collaboration and coordination to drive drownings to zero

  • Promote shared responsibility in communities
  • Work with local partners to manage local risk
  • Improve coordination and collaboration between agencies

The actions: Set the foundation for more effective collaboration

  • Establish better ways of working together through effective governance
  • Expand research and data to underpin policy and decision‑making
  • Empower communities to better assess, and respond to, water safety risks

Coordinate agency effort to address key priorities in prevention and response

  • Elevate safety in and around open waterways
  • Reduce powered and non‑powered recreational vessel related incidents
  • Enhance learn to swim and water safety education
  • Improve incident response