Mum warns of ‘astounding’ summer mistake claiming Aussie kids' lives

Deb Herde is still scarred by a neighbour's baby drowning and so teaches her son the importance of swim safety.

Aussie mum Deb Herde remembers vividly the tragic moment a neighbour's baby lost its life after drowning in the backyard pool of their family home.

Although she was just a child, "it's something that's always stuck with me for a long time," the mum of one told Yahoo News Australia.

It wasn't until she had her own child, Jacob, now eight, that she "started thinking about pool safety" and the simple mistakes parents around Australia continue to make.

Woman and young son
Deb Herde, a pool inspector, says she will never let her son swim unsupervised. Source: Supplied

Mum 'astounded' by common pool mistake

Alarmingly, two in five parents allow their children to swim unsupervised, according to a report by Kids Alive and D&D Technologies which manufactures safety gates and latches. While 55 per cent of pool owners keep the pool gate open when their children are playing which can lead to accidents.

"I know from being a pool fence inspector, I'll go to pools and there'll be gates propped open, I'm just astounded," Herde said. "We need to make sure those gates are closed at all times and please don't grab a cable tie or anything else to hold gates back. It's the ultimate laziness".

Drownings in numbers

In 2022,16 children under five drowned while swimming in their backyard, while over the past 25 years, a total of 965 kids the same age have tragically lost their lives in pools. Overall, there have been 281 lives lost to drowning between July 2022 and June 2023, according to Royal Lifesaving Australia. While this is down 27 per cent over a 10-year period, more needs to be done to raise awareness, Herde says.

"The fact that a lot of children are picked up from school now, they're not able to walk home. Parents are so hypersensitive about that, but they're so blasé about drowning which is right on everyone's doorstep."

Young boy playing in backyard pool
Children under 5 are most at risk of drowning in backyard pools. Source: Getty

Stark reminder for parents

Laurie Lawrence, founder of Kids Alive and ambassador of Check-Your-Pool-Gate Month, stressed the importance of constant supervision and pool gate maintenance.

"I was shocked to discover nearly half of parents have left children unattended in the pool to complete quick chores," he said. "Leaving a child unsupervised significantly increases the risk of accidents. Supervision is a drowning prevention method that parents really can’t overlook."

The new Kids Alive report, in line with Check-Your-Pool-Gate Month, is "a stark reminder of the dangers of complacency in pool safety," he added. "Ensuring that pool gates function correctly and are never left open can be the difference between safety and tragedy".

"It's 100 per cent the responsibility and control of the parents," Herde added.

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