Objective: To examine drowning deaths of young children in Victorian dams to identify common contributing factors in order to develop strategies for future prevention.
Design: Case records of children aged zero to five years from the State Coroner's Office Victoria were reviewed for the 13-year period 1989-2001. Cases where the child drowned in a dam were extracted for analysis.
Results: During the 13-year period there were 27 deaths; 11 occurred on farms, five on hobby farms and 11 on properties where it was not specified whether the property was a farm. Almost three quarters of the children were male and the majority were aged between one year and three years. Half of the incidents occurred on the weekend and nearly half occurred during the summer months. Five major factors were common among incidents: stage of the child's development; absence of carer supervision; child playing outside the house; dam within 300 metres of where the child was playing; and lack of effective barriers between the dam and the child.
Conclusion: The coronial information examined identified patterns of behaviour by both carers and young children that contributed to these deaths. The results support the implementation of strategies such as the promotion of child safe play areas and targeted public awareness campaigns for rural and regional aquatic environments.