LEGENDARY Australian swim coach Laurie Lawrence is urging Wimmera parents to be extra vigilant in keeping children safe by the water, particularly in venturing back poolside.
Lawrence said there had already been a boom in parents bringing children to the pool in his home state Queensland, with numbers significantly higher than this time last year.
He expected this trend to emerge, maybe even more so, in Victoria after lengthy lockdowns and with weather just starting to warm up.
Lawrence was concerned in children's safety, particularly those aged under five, as the nation moves towards a COVID-normal.
Many kids may have forgotten the capacity for what the are capable of doing in the water and panic.Laurie Lawrence
He said learning to swim was best drowning prevention method but Swim Australia research showed 41 per cent of Australian parents had no plans to put their children back into swim lessons within the next 12 months. Let alone swim school closures.
"Many kids may have forgotten the capacity for what the are capable of doing in the water and panic," Mr Lawrence said.
"Little kids in particular panic and go to the bottom of the pool.
"Summer is a time to celebrate the water and we want to make it safe."
Twelve children aged under-five drowned in the past year, according to Royal Life Saving Australia, down from 35 deaths in a year a decade ago. Half of the under-five drownings last year were in pools, predominantly in the backyard, and 75 per cent of drownings in this age group followed falls.
Lawrence said 12 children was equivalent to a mini-bus load and each child had family and communities impacted by the deaths.
None of the 12 drownings were in Victoria.
Surf Life Saving Victoria estimates 145,000 Victorians, mostly children, missed weekly swimming lessons during pandemic lockdowns.
Lawrence said one of the best places Ballarat parents could start is in checking their pool fencing.
December is Check Your Pool Gate Month and Lawrence, an ambassador, said while drownings could occur in any water, his biggest concern was backyard pools.
Campaign research shows 34 per cent of Australian pool owners claim they had never checked the safety of their gate and fence.
Victoria introduced new compliance laws for pools and spas last December. One feature in this law is any pool and spa containing more than 30 centimetres' water, including inflatable pools and wading pools, must be in a separate enclosure with a self-latching gate.