In January of this year, a pleasant family camping experience in Southern New South Wales turned to tragedy. As the Illawarra Mercury reported, father Svaanik Kumar was staying with his wife and two young children at a campground in Coolendel, near Nowra. Mr Kumar, a non-swimmer, had been playing with his children in shallow waters of the Shoalhaven River, when the children began to “float away” into fast-flowing waters. In attempt to rescue them, he was forced downstream, where tragically he disappeared with his body being discovered two days later.

The children’s mother told the ABC that risk warning signage would have alerted Mr Kumar to the danger of drowning in the area, and may have stopped him from taking his children swimming. As ABC News reported, Mrs Kumar seeks compensation from the campground for a lack of risk warning signage and life rings. The Royal Lifesaving Society of Australia (RLS) recommends signage as a cost effective strategy to promote water safety and warn of dangers.

Safety equipment and signage are particularly important in waterways where rescue services are not always available. However, these recommendations are not legal requirements, and some water safety experts suggest that non-swimmers must take some responsibility when swimming in non-patrolled locations.

Risk Warning Signs should be recognisable to a diverse audience, and should be in close proximity to the hazard. The aim is to affect behaviour and not just limit liability.

A coronial inquest to be heard in September will investigate Mr Kumar’s death, considering what measures could have been taken to overt this tragedy.