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Family's sad story a timely reminder

Queensland Child Protection Week award winner Katherine Plint has worked tirelessly to build Hannah's Foundation.
Queensland Child Protection Week award winner Katherine Plint has worked tirelessly to build Hannah's Foundation. Rae Wilson

HARRY Plint was 17 months old when his older sister Hannah drowned in a backyard pool at the family's Laidley home.

Now six years, he keeps nagging his mother for a pool.

But Katherine Plint, who was changing his nappy when his almost three-year-old sister put a chair against the pool fence so she could open the gate, just cannot fathom the idea.

Hannah knew how to swim; she had swum the length of their pool in front of her parents just two days prior.

But minutes later she had drowned in the icy cold water which stopped her heart.

Thursday marks five years since Hannah died and will be the fourth National Drowning Prevention, Awareness and Memorial Day.

Mrs Plint and her husband Andrew began Hannah's Foundation so they could raise awareness about drowning prevention, aid coroner inquests into such deaths and give families someone to turn to when drowning strikes them.

The passionate mum - who still has regular flashbacks and nightmares about the fateful day - said she had no one to turn to back in 2007 but it was important to talk because the pain never really went away.

The family has filled in the backyard pool and is now growing a vegetable patch where the pool once was.

Mrs Plint said she still had trouble walking into her backyard and she could not stand the smell of chlorine because they were triggers for the day she pulled her daughter from the water.

"It doesn't feel like five years. It's gone fast, slow, up and down," she said.

"She still makes us smile but we do have our teary days.

"Harry is more emotional now he understands loss of life.

"For Andrew and I personally, we are Hannah's voice.

"Not long before she died, Hannah said she wanted to grow up to be a baby doctor like the one who saved her as a premature baby.

"The irony of that is that she is saving lives.

"We have achieved so much in that time and now we're planning for the next five years.

"We want NSW and Victoria to follow Queensland and see a dramatic decrease in toddler drownings. But we also want to see adult drownings decrease too."

Mrs Plint said she was working toward changing the Australian mentality that knowing how to swim would save your life.

She said just because people could get their bronze medallion in a pool did not mean they could survive in the ocean or inland waterway.

"We need to teach people not to drown," she said.

"We're looking at kids drowning with jeans, hoodies, nappies, shoes and socks.

"We have to push families to ask swimming instructors for fully clothed lessons.

"Just because you can swim in a heated pool back and forth, doesn't mean you can't do that in the ocean where you have animals, waves, currents, rips and other people in the water, some on jet skis, boats and surf ski.

"But we don't seem to be getting the education out there.

"We did bath drowning (which have increased in the past year) warnings at Easter but there was not one piece of media about it.

"I have a fake brick wall Harry made me from Lego the other day on my desk.

"I keep bashing my head against it because nobody seems to be listening.

"Swimming and CPR helps but we need to change mentality of society. People need supervision whether they're 3, 23 or 83.

"It's about supervision and barriers so you have back-ups layers of protection."

The Queensland Child Protection Volunteer of the Year for 2012 said she also believed alcohol companies should place warnings on their drinks to promote that drinking while engaged in water activities is life threatening.

She said people needed to start thinking of lifejackets as seatbelts on the water, with more drowning deaths in inland waterways than at the beach.

The 2012 Royal Life Saving Australia's national drowning report last month outlined age and locations 284 people drowned in Australian waterways in the year ending June 30, 2012, and found there was just a 1% reduction, three deaths, on the five-year average.

"They only time we seem to talk about water safety is when there's been a tragedy. We have road campaigns, where are the drowning education campaigns?" Mrs Plint said.

"Where are the messages that kids can drown in buckets of water or dog's bowls, or that they should always float on their back with their feet towards a current if they get into trouble in the water?

"We share her day of death with the nation. We do it because our members need a day of mourning and a day dedicated to prevention."

Donations to Hannah's Foundation can be made online direct by EFT to BSB 704 052 Account 1035885 or online using credit card at www.givenow.com.au/hannahsfoundation.

Cheques or money orders can be posted to Hannah's Foundation PO BOX 361 Laidley, QLD, 4341.


State Breakdown - Drowning Deaths 2011-12

New South Wales: 105
Queensland: 75
Victoria: 37
Western Australia: 29
South Australia: 14
Tasmania: 13
Northern Territory: 10
Australian Capital Territory: 1


Drowning facts at a glance

  • 284 people drowned in Australia in 2011-12 financial year
  • 232 males
  • 52 females
  • 21 children aged 0-4 years
  • 13 children aged 5-14 years
  • 45 young people aged 15-24 years
  • 97 people aged 55 years and over
  • 75 in rivers, creeks, steams
  • 55 at beaches
  • 19% while swimming or other recreation
  • 19% using or interacting with water craft
  • 31% occur in summer

Topics:  child protection drownings family hannah's foundation pools



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