Our say | Time for all of us to tackle summer’s curse

IT has been a tragic week across Central West with two drownings in local waterways.

The first tragedy came last weekend when 20-year-old Jake Walton was found face down in the Macquarie River near Geurie.

He had earlier been seen to dive into the river and he did not immediately emerge.

To add to the tragedy, a 38-year-old man drowned in Wyangala Dam near Cowra on Friday night after he entered the water to go to the aid of a nine-year-old boy who had got into trouble.

And there were fears for the worst south of Bathurst on Saturday night after a little girl disappeared on a property at Rockley.

Police divers were called in to check a dam on the property but, fortunately, there was a happy end to this story when the little girl was found safe and well on Sunday morning.

Sadly, though, such happy endings are all too rare.

In the 12 months from July 2016, 291 people drowned in Australia.

While the child drowning rate has more than halved in the past 20 years, we can do much better.

And we must. No families should suffer the immeasurable heartache of losing someone to drowning.

There are risk factors – and risky behaviour – that should be confronted. Men, for instance, are roughly four times more likely to drown than women.

Research from the Royal Life Saving Society Australia shows that in the past decade, of the almost 2000 men who drowned, about 40 per cent had drugs or alcohol in their systems.

Some 67 per cent of those men would have failed a random breath test with a recorded blood alcohol level above 0.05.

But another key battleground will be the education of young people and ensuring all children are safe around water.

The Royal Life Saving NSW estimates that half the state's primary school children are unable to swim by the time they enter high school.

If swimming lessons are not to be made compulsory as part of the NSW physical education curriculum – as they are in Victoria – then they must be made compulsory out of school hours.

We are a country that loves our rivers, beaches and our waterways.

Let's show that we love the people who use them just as much.