Katherine Plint, founder of child safety advocacy group Hannah’s Foundation, a mother who suffered seeing one of her children drown, says the advocacy needs more voices.
“A ONE-YEAR-OLD girl has died after she was found floating in a backyard swimming pool in Minto”, read a newspaper report last week.
Another child drowns and the heartache continues.
As a mother, I am disheartened at the number of children drowning. My own daughter drowned. I, like many, live the life of heartache to which has no name. The parents are always to blame, according to society; how wrong they are.
Drowning is uncontrolled. The environment is lonely, scary for the victim, yet so peaceful and euphoric? Those that have been revived as adults, and lived to tell their tales, tell us it’s an experience they will never forget.
Backyard killers await anyone who has a pool. If you have toddlers, the most high risk are boys aged 2 to 4, and sadly many who do drown won’t make it — and many of those that do, lose their lives shortly after, or live a life as a disabled.
Pool safety in Australia is serious. It’s up to the community as a whole to work together to ensure pool safety.
So, another tragedy in a rental property only frustrates me more, as I have campaigned – along another mum, Kelly Taylor – to have Jaise’s Law passed as Legislation in NSW since September 2010. And we have campaigned for rental property changes since 2009.
And still we see, senselessly, another tenant powerless under the law to fix something as simple as a pool gate, because the relevant legislation doesn’t allow them to fix anything on their property, the landlords’ insurance won’t cover the tenants’ repairs, and the agents are powerless to enforce. Still, legislation exists that states that owners must maintain their pool fences within the requirements of the Act — so, why is it so easy for our governments to ignore the epidemic killing our kids in backyard pools?
If a pool was a workplace, it would have to be, by law, safe and of good standard. So, why not rental properties? Why are landlords or owners choosing to not fix their fences when they are, and should be by law, classified as emergency repairs. A pool fence is more important than a hot water service, or the dishwasher breaking. Yet, sadly, in the Coroners Court, more and more families are torn apart by the callous and uncaring decisions of others — who society will never blame or hold accountable.
Society belts the parents with a viciousness that is uncalled for. I was a parent who owned my home and yet, sadly, I’m accused of killing my daughter — yet on that day, my only crime was caring for my other child who was sick. I didn't build the pool; it was working with a pool gate and the gate was shut and locked the night before. That day, my life and that of my family’s, changed forever.
Our pool was illegally built — so why isn’t the builder responsible? He built it. He cut corners to save on the application costs — the evidence of that was displayed in court. The council knew the pool existed, but never enforced the regulations.
So, what is the point of having laws to protect our most vulnerable toddlers – of whom over 20 drown annually in back yard pools – if the laws fail them? Why isn’t the government in all states changing the laws to update the current legislation to the new Australian Standards? Why have standards if the Governments only choose to ignore them? If you or I broke the law, we would have the book thrown at us, so why are our Government’s knowingly ignoring this issue.
With so many in the rental market, I plead with everyone in a rental property to check their pool fence and report any discrepancies of maintenance to their Real Estate agent in writing — take photos if you have too. I then urge every Agent to engage immediate contact to the landlord and issue the notices of emergency repairs for any maintenance on the pool fence. Under the Swimming Pools Act of NSW, it is a legal requirement to ensure pools are compliant.
Drowning prevention messages of supervision around water is a must, as well as a fully working and functioning barrier that prevents a child from accessing the water. These two regimes alone will save lives. Sadly, those that think that their child's swimming lessons will save them think again — 80 per cent of kids who drown were enrolled in lessons at the time of their deaths and many over four could swim to the edge of the pool.
It’s been five years since my daughters drowning and the formation of the wonderful charity that helps rebuild lives after death by water. We are not government funded, we provide 24-hour peer support specific to this type of death, something no other charity or organisation in the world does. We are unique and proud that her legacy can live on. Parents of loved ones need your support.
They need your voice to help us make Jaise’s law in NSW and Lauren’s Law in Victoria a reality. They also need your wonderful financial contribution, which is tax deductible. None of the Foundation staff get paid, they work for free; our accounts clerk works one day a week and is paid by our sponsors.
The family of this little one who dies just recently needs your help, and they shouldn’t have to exploit themselves for the purpose of receiving financial assistance. Sadly, they have to wait to get the money to bury their daughter and say goodbye because the Government couldn’t change the laws to protect her and her parents were powerless to fix something so simple. A broken pool gate.
(Find out more about Hannah's Foundation here.)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
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