An issue of growing importance within the field of drowning prevention is the undertaking of aquatic rescues by bystanders, who sometimes drown in the process. The main objectives of this study were to describe characteristics of bystanders making rescues in different Australian aquatic environments, identify the role of prior water safety training in conducting bystander rescues and provide insights into future public education strategies relating to bystander rescue scenarios. An online survey was disseminated via various social media platforms in 2017 and gathered a total of 243 complete responses. The majority of bystander rescues described took place in coastal waterways (76.5%; n = 186), particularly beaches (n = 67), followed by pools (17.3%; n = 42) and inland waterways (6.2%; n = 15). The majority of respondents were males (64.2%; n = 156) who rescued on average approximately twice as many people in their lifetime (6.5) than female respondents (3.6). Most rescues occurred more than 1 km from lifeguard/lifesaver services (67%; n = 163), but in the presence of others (94.2%; n = 229). The majority of bystander rescuers had water safety training (65.8%; n = 160), self-rated as strong swimmers (68.3%; n = 166), conducted the rescue without help from others (60%; n = 146), did not use a flotation device to assist (63%; n = 153), but were confident in their ability to make the rescue (76.5%; n = 186). However, most considered the situation to be very serious (58%; n = 141) and felt they had saved a life (70.1%; n = 172). With the exception of pools, most bystanders rescued strangers (76.1%; n = 185).While Australia clearly benefits from having a strong water safety culture, there is no clear consensus on the most appropriate actions bystanders should take when confronted with a potential aquatic rescue scenario. In particular, more research is needed to gather information regarding bystander rescues undertaken by those without prior water safety training.