I'm dismayed that not much has changed over the past decades and that there has been a rise in drowing deaths this Summer.
Article from The Argus, December 2, 1935
Although I could swim a little and had during the summer months of my childhood jumped in rivers and creeks around Wangaratta to keep cool, it was only after my grandmother (who I lived with) moved to Altona that I experience my first real experience of being in deep beach water. My grandmother always anxious when we (my two sisters and myself) headed off, reminded us that our two Aunties had drowned. Indeed on Sunday, 1 Dec, 1935 Margaret Joyce Clarke aged 13 and Isabelle Clarke aged 10, drowned at Elwood Beach. They were two of the five children who lost their lives that afternoon in 88.6F (29C) degrees heat.
My learn to swim certificate 1963
I count myself lucky that in 1963 we were enrolled in a Herald Sun learn to swim program through the local council and I was proud that I could swim 25 yards. I'm afraid that being able to swim meant that I had more confidence than I previously had around water and admit to doing some silly things, like swim to the end of Altona pier where I was pushed and bashed by the surging water and suffered scratched and bleeding legs from the sharp barnacles attached to pier pylons. Later, when I was 18 years old I swam to the middle of Lake Learmonth in Ballarat and back to shore. I was severely exhausted, sunburnt and suffered heatstroke for two days. In 1970 my nephew died trying to save a friend from drowning. Water safety is paramount in my mind because of the trauma it caused to our family.
This blog post is to remind people not only to watch small children around water, but to remind teenagers and older adults that just because you can swim doesn't mean that you can do stupid things or swim out too far in the ocean. Even strong swimmers can drown.Drinking alcohol and going into the pool or beach water is a recipe for disaster as is ignoring information provided by Life Savers. Always swim between the flags, that way if you get into trouble the life savers will be able to see you. Above all, don't get caught up in being competative or macho, it could cause your own death and the death of someone trying to save you! If you can't swim don't be tempted to walk into deep water and above all, don't swim alone.