A spike in drownings has safety experts on high alert ahead of Australia Day, with Victorian authorities reeling from a record number of deaths around water.
Royal Life Saving Australia and the Victorian government have made separate pleas before the public holiday for people to pay more attention to water safety.
A man died early Wednesday morning after his tinnie capsized in Victoria’s southeast, the state’s fifth water-related fatality in the past week.
Four people died in a horror spate of incidents on January 13 across the state.
Since July 1, Victoria has had a record 40 drowning deaths, whereas the previous 12-month total was 34.
One theory is that because of Victoria’s extended virus lockdown, people have not swum as much and lack fitness.
Lifeguard Chris Perrott was hailed for his rescue efforts during one of the July 13 incidents, at Bushrangers Bay on the Mornington Peninsula. A woman died there but three other people were saved.
“Statistics are definitely pointing to increased rescues and more people on the beach,” he said.
“It is hard to quantify how their swimming ability has been affected but one can only think there has been a huge decrease in fitness and for kids especially.
“They might not have had swimming lessons for the year.”
Victorian Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said all drowning deaths were preventable.
“Know the conditions, swim between the flags, know your abilities, don’t swim alone, don’t drink and swim, and look out for toddlers,” she said.
“It’s been a really tough summer.”
Royal Life Saving said someone had died from drowning nearly every day over summer.
The organisation is particularly worried about men, booze and inland waterways.
It said men account for 75 per cent of drowning deaths this summer, adding one third of drownings have happened inland.
Research also showed the risk of drowning doubled on public holidays.
Alcohol is also a factor in 37 per cent of public holiday drownings.