A view of Cape Woolamai beach at Phillip Island.
A view of Cape Woolamai beach at Phillip Island.

The shock tactic to stop drowning heartbreak

A SHOCK TAC-style campaign is being considered by the state government amid a spate of drownings.

It comes as authorities and heartbroken families plead for people to think of the "human side" of the toll after the deadliest start to the lifesaving season in almost 15 years.

Seven people have drowned in Victorian waters since Christmas Eve, nearly all in front of distraught friends and relatives.

Nishi Verma watched helplessly as her husband and son drowned at Phillip Island on Christmas Eve.

Rahul Verma, 20, and his dad, Charan, 45, were holding hands in the shallows with younger brother Anuj, 11, when they were knocked down by a large wave and dragged out to sea.

"It all happened before my eyes … I couldn't do anything," Ms Nishi said.

Rahul Verma, 20, and dad Charan Verma, 45, drowned while swimming at Phillip Island on Christmas Eve.
Rahul Verma, 20, and dad Charan Verma, 45, drowned while swimming at Phillip Island on Christmas Eve.

 

 

 

She urged others to check conditions before entering the water and wants more signage at beaches.

"I lost my family and I don't want anyone else to lose theirs," she said.

The small community of Bairnsdale was mourning this week after two locals drowned at the same holiday hotspot just four days apart.

 

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Max Tavai, 45, had heart failure while swimming with family in Sunset Cove on Tuesday afternoon. Tributes flowed on social media for the "awesome son, big brother and uncle", as friends remembered him as "a champion" who volunteered in the community and sang in a church band.

 

 

 

Hero mother Josephine Williamson, 34, drowned after trying to help her children in Forge Creek.
Hero mother Josephine Williamson, 34, drowned after trying to help her children in Forge Creek.

 

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On December 29, Josephine Williamson, 34, drowned while trying to help her children in Forge Creek, near Paynesville.

The loving mother grew up in the Philippines and moved to Australia in 2010. Her cousin, Maricor Amancio, said she was generous and caring.

"She truly had a golden heart for her family," she said.

 

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On December 30, an 84-year-old Tamleugh man drowned in a dam on private property in Violet Town.

On Christmas Day, a 64-year-old abalone diver from St Albans drowned off the rocks at Cape Schanck as his helpless diving buddy watched on.

And on Boxing Day, Indian tourist Harmanjot Singh Walia drowned at the popular MacKenzie Falls attraction near the Grampians.

His wife and friends watched as the 27-year-old was sucked under a rock ledge at the notoriously dangerous falls.

 

 

MacKenzie Falls drowning victim Harmanjot Singh Walia with his wife Kirtika Walia.
MacKenzie Falls drowning victim Harmanjot Singh Walia with his wife Kirtika Walia.

 

 

Close friend Binoty Vij urged swimmers to think of their family and friends before taking a risk in the water.

"Don't risk your life because in the end, it's not worth it," she said.

Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said the spike in drownings was a national issue that required a joint ­approach from all states. Forty-eight people have drowned in Australia since December 1 - 10 in Victoria.

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"We will be reviewing all of our advertising and communication strategies to make sure the messages are getting through to the people we need them to," Ms Neville said. "Clearly, a (TAC-style) campaign that shocks the viewer has been used to great success in the past, and given what we are seeing, then it is something absolutely worth looking at."

Kane Treloar, of Life Saving Victoria, said almost every drowning could have been prevented.

He implored people to never underestimate how dangerous water could be.

"If you're not a confident swimmer, the best thing you can do is swim in a patrolled area," Mr Treloar said, adding people needed to think of the "human side" of drownings.

"It's not just a statistic, it's a family that are now without their loved ones," he said.

"We want everyone to make good choices," he said.

genevieve.alison@news.com.au

 

Max Tavai died while swimming in Sunset Cove, Paynesville.
Max Tavai died while swimming in Sunset Cove, Paynesville.