Surf lifesavers say a lack of funding is directly linked to an increase in the number of people drowning.

Surf Life Saving Australia says there were 119 coastal drowning deaths in Australia in 2011/2012.

That is well above the eight-year average of 92.

Surf Life Saving Australia's acting chief executive, Peter George, says the figures are concerning.

"They were up overall last year and this year's statistics which are about to be released, are also in line with last year's so the last two years are up on the five year average," he said.

"It is concerning. We're doing a lot of analysis around where the drowning is occurring.

He says education is vital to their programs.

"If people understand the risk they are taking, particularly around rock fishing and rip currents, and know that from an education point of view what to look for, we can certainly reduce the number of drownings around Australia," he said.

"There's very good support from a wide range of sponsors and the Government and the local communities.

"We could always do with more money because effectively what we're trying to do is extend our services and improve our education systems and get more relevant information into more places, more of the time, and that does take money."

Last summer, 17 people died on West Australian beaches, more than double the number for the previous summer.

A member of Surf Life Saving WA for 43 years, John King, runs education programs in some schools and says funding is vital to sharing the beach safety message.

"The benefits would be that certainly people would be more aware of what the ocean can do," he said.

"And educate them as to how to counter those possible injuries and cases of being stuck in rips.

"The rip is probably more dangerous than anything. And people just don't have an appreciation of that."

Surf Life Saving WA's chief executive Paul Andrew says drownings at WA beaches should be decreasing but they are not.

"Drowning numbers are up, there's no two ways about that," he said.

"In our last season there were some 17 drownings. That is up on previous years.

"The previous year was about half of that. I think there was about eight drownings."

Mr Andrew says educating school children is the key to preventing beach deaths but a lack of funding means lifesavers cannot spread their message as broadly as they would like.

"Oh look, it's very successful when we get out into schools," he said.

"But we're only capturing a small proportion of those schools at this point in time.

"It gets down to funding because obviously we need to be charging schools a small nominal fee to go out there and school budgets are pretty tight nowadays."

He says significant funding is needed.

"Overall we're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars to get out there and do it properly," he said.

"But that's a goal that we set ourselves and looking to engage with anyone who wishes to help us out with this critical issue.

"If people can make informed decisions, if people have a better understanding of what skills they do and what they don't have, and that they take responsibility for their own action, I think they'll make better informed decisions."

 

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