Not your babysitters: Lifesavers hit out at parents
Lifesavers fed up with being beach "babysitters" are urging parents to ditch their mobile phones and keep their kids within arm's reach after hundreds of children had to be rescued during the school holidays last year.
Volunteer and professional lifesavers saved 361 children aged 12 or under in December and January last year with frightening numbers being rescued from outside the flags and even from flat water public lagoons.
The alarming figures have prompted lifesavers bracing for a record summer school holidays to issue a plea for parents be on alert at the beach, and not leave their children alone in the water.
Lifesaving Services Manager Peta Lawlor urged all visitors, both local and interstate, to remain watchful of their children when visiting Queensland beaches.
"Our lifesavers and lifeguards do a terrific job patrolling Queensland beaches but it is important to remember they are not babysitters," she said.
"Our advice when visiting the beach is to swim at patrolled locations between the red and yellow flags; keep a watchful eye on children at all times and have them within an arm's reach.
"We want all families to enjoy a safe and happy school holiday period."
She said the 361 children had been plucked from "immediate danger" by lifesavers and lifeguards up and down the state.
Ms Lawlor said this summer's packed beaches would make it even harder to keep everyone safe.
"We are expecting these coastal areas to be swarming with people.
"There are a lot of people who will be holidaying on the coast this year and we just want everyone to be really safe and enjoy their time.
"Please don't turn this into a tragedy.
"There's so much activity that goes on at the beach. There's a lot of people in the water, there's a lot of craft users, there's a lot of people everywhere.
"While your kids are in the water, let's put the phone down, let's put the devices down, enjoy the time at the beach but really keep a watchful eye on the kids."
It is shaping as a challenging start to the holidays with lifesavers concerned enthusiastic beachgoers might ignore the big swell tipped for Saturday, the first day of the summer break.
If beaches had to be closed, Ms Lawlor urged beachgoers to stay out of the water.
Queensland Family and Child Commissioner, Cheryl Vardon echoed SLSQ's safety messaging and wants families and children to have fun this summer but most importantly be safe around all bodies of water.
"The holidays are always a great time for us to relax and have fun with our loved ones by the water, but we want to make sure everyone stays safe so we can avoid holiday accidents and tragedies," Ms Vardon said.
"16 children and young people drowned in Queensland in 2018-19 and it remains the leading cause of death for one to four-year olds.
"With so many families expected to flock to beaches, pools and lakes I want to encourage everyone to stay safe, supervise little ones, swim between the flags, watch kids in bathtubs and ignore the temptation to dive into lakes, creeks and dams."
Noosa ironwoman champion Jordan Mercer said children being left unattended on the beach was a "scary issue".
"The way I was brought up, we were taught how to respect the ocean, and how unpredictable it can be," she told The Courier-Mail.
"I grew up through the Nippers and it was the best way to learn about surf safety and to develop the skills to help others in the ocean.
"For parents and grandparents, summer is a beautiful time to share with kids at the beach. There's no place you'd rather be this year. But you need to swim between the flags and make sure your eyes are on the kids.
"As an athlete, I've always tried to use the ocean to help me, but the ocean will always stand up and show you who's boss. I hope this summer people appreciate how powerful it is."
361 children under the age of 12 were rescued by SLSQ services in the December
2019/January 2020 period.
Distance from the nearest SLSQ service:
• Between the flags = 36
• 0 - 100 metres = 137
• 100 metres - 1 kilometre = 117
• 1 kilometre - 5 kilometre = 30
• Greater than 5 kilometres = 17
• SLSQ patrolled lagoons (Cairns Esplanade and Southbank) = 22
Originally published as Not your babysitters: Life savers hit out at parents