Merimbula’s Marine Rescue unit commander and training officer Bill Blakeman has been named a finalist in the NSW and ACT Community Achievement Awards for his commitment to safety.
Bill, who spends countless hours training and developing crews to conduct rescues and respond to incidents, has been nominated in the Safety category, with the award winners to be announced at a gala event in Sydney on 25 November.
“I enjoy training new members and get great joy out of seeing their progress and development, it’s very satisfying,” he said.
“My focus today is about saving lives on the water.”
The Synaco Safety Award recognises those committed to safety in their workplace and throughout the community.
The unit’s deputy commander Sonia Teston said Bill was a worthy finalist after being awarded the NSW Maritime Medal in August for his outstanding contribution as a training officer.
“Bill’s dedication to safety and training at Marine Rescue Merimbula has directly benefited the entire boating community, our members, and the broader public,” she said.
“Through his tireless commitment to professional development, operational training, and emergency response preparedness, Bill ensures that we are equipped with the skills needed to carry out safe and effective rescue missions.
“Bill’s leadership has a profound positive impact on all those he works with, fostering a safer maritime environment for everyone. We congratulate and wish him all the best for the awards ceremony.”
Bill began his working life on the sea with the British Merchant Navy and eventually retired from the NSW Maritime Service Board in 2007. At the same time, he served as a volunteer member of the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard in Sydney.
Upon his retirement, he moved south and joined the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol at Merimbula, taking up the role of training officer and training support officer, roles he continues to perform. To comply with the requirements of these roles, he obtained a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.
Holding Marine Rescue NSW’s highest qualifications, including Marine Rescue Master and Watch Officer, means Bill can train and assess his fellow volunteers working for all qualifications attainable in the organisation.
As the training officer, he draws on his extensive experience and knowledge to elevate volunteers to the appropriate trained standards, in the process helping many of them to build the skills and knowledge needed to progress through the ranks.
In 2015, Bill was awarded the Marine Rescue NSW Commissioner’s Commendation for Courage for an operation undertaken in October 2011. He was the skipper of the rescue vessel with a crew of two volunteers, who risked their lives to save two men and their vessel, which was stranded metres from rocks in winds gusting to 30 knots in three-metre seas off Merimbula.
In 2019, he was awarded the Bega Valley Shire Community Service Medallion in recognition of his skills and dedication as both an emergency services trainer and unit commander.
During the Black Summer bushfires, Bill worked tirelessly in the local Emergency Operations Centre, helping to coordinate MR members to monitor RFS radios overnight and undertake countless jobs in the four evacuation centres at Merimbula, Tura Beach and Bega. His work in the Emergency Operations Centre only ceased when he was forced to evacuate his family home, which was threatened by the advancing bushfires.