Almost 500 finalists, friends and family frocked up to celebrate the 111th season of Surf Life Saving in New South Wales at the annual Awards of Excellence on Saturday night.
The event celebrates the outstanding achievements of volunteer surf lifesavers across surf sports, education, administration, membership and lifesaving, and was hosted by television personality and 30-year member Tom Williams at Dockside, Darling Harbour.
The state’s most southern branch took home four awards including Branch of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, the Innovation Award and the President’s Medal, awarded to Cheryl McCarthy from Bermagui SLSC.
Life membership was also formally awarded to Pambula’s Don Hay, building on the recognition he received before passing away earlier this year.
Seven clubs make up the Far South Coast Branch – taking in the Eurobodalla and Bega Valley, a footprint that covers one of the largest and most isolated stretches of coast in the state.
“Our branch works so hard and we’d be nowhere without the forward-thinking of our Board of Directors and amazing members,” says Branch stalwart Tony Rettke.
“We might be one of the smallest branches in the state, but we have some of the most hard-working, passionate and innovative members who put not only their day jobs on the line to respond to call-outs 365 days of the year, but also their lives on the line to save others.
“I’m so proud that the seven clubs in the Far South Coast can be recognised for their efforts in a room of amazing lifesavers, for the second year running. It’s a real thrill to be here and accept this award on behalf of the Far South Coast.”
Why did the locals win? Here’s what the judges said:
Branch of the Year – Far South Coast
It has been a huge season for the Far South Coast Branch, whose footprint covers one of the largest and most isolated stretches of coastline in New South Wales – some 230 Kilometres.
With limited resources but a dedicated and hardworking membership, the branch and clubs are resourceful, innovative, collaborative and inspirational.
This season they have championed the development of new processes in partnership with the local Marine Rescue, who load and carry Surf Life Saving IRBs and crews to the site of remote search and rescue situations, increasing the capacity of both organisations.
When combined with drone capabilities from the same rigid craft, these innovations from the Far South Coast will undoubtedly save lives. They are leading the way with their multi-agency resource and skill-sharing in the pursuit of improved coastal safety.
The Far South Coast Branch proudly run a number of inclusive surf education programs, new carnival formats to increase involvement and continue to support inland Nipper development programs.
Over the last season the branch responded to 35 emergency call outs thanks to the combined efforts of their seven clubs and Support Operations Team.
The Far South Coast Branch has continued to build strong communities with remarkable results.
Volunteer of the Year – Wendy Law, Broulee SLSC
Wendy has demonstrated outstanding commitment to surf lifesaving both at Club and Branch levels since she joined the organisation in 2005. She has a true passion for Surf Life Saving.
Wendy is highly professional in all of her dealings and has a well-deserved reputation in the club, branch and the state as someone who gets the job done efficiently and effectively.
Wendy shows a high degree of integrity in all of her work and is a highly trusted member of the team. She has a clear understanding of her responsibilities and is respectful and professional when dealing with members and the wider community.
Wendy’s many roles and her commitment is seen through her willingness to provide ongoing support to individuals and clubs. Always happy to answer questions despite a huge workload, she carries out a multitude of roles with incredible efficiency, patience and good humour.
Innovation Award – Far South Coast Support Operations
The Far South Coast Support Operations team has become a highly respected and integrated part of emergency services after multiple demonstrations of professionalism and expertise during critical incidents and search and rescue callouts
The team was tasked with coming up with new and innovative ways to challenge and refresh traditional
The result was outstanding new capabilities that are a first of their kind in the state. Club callout teams, Jetski Operators and Drone pilots have all been involved and their efforts have resulted in several “state firsts”.
The benefits are not only to the Far South Coast branch but also across the state with the research and collaborative work resulting in new and innovative search and rescue techniques. They have found solutions to enhance the ability to reach remote locations more quickly and efficiently as well as extend search times.
The team train hard and love what they do, many putting their day jobs on – hold to take part in emergency callouts.
They are an integral part of their small but vibrant communities.
President’s Medal – Cheryl McCarthy, Bermagui SLSC
A truly amazing volunteer and lifesaver, the recipient of the 2019 President’s Medal is Cheryl McCarthy
of Bermagui Surf Life Saving Club.
Cheryl embodies what being a volunteer lifesaver is all about. Highly respected for her leadership and enthusiasm, her commitment to the Far South Coast Branch and in particular the Bermagui SLSC has made her an exemplar amongst our lifesavers.
Cheryl has been instrumental in introducing flexible patrol rostering at Bermagui, which revitalised the club from struggling to meet its patrolling requirements, to being oversubscribed for patrolling members.
She currently holds the positions of Far South Coast Director of Lifesaving, Branch Duty Officer, Director of Administration at Bermagui SLSC and is a member of multiple committees and working groups.
Through her diligence, networking and collaboration skills, she has elevated her branch to be a shining example of best practice.
She has encouraged and driven her fellow lifesavers and operational support groups to work in
partnership on complex multi-agency initiatives.
Cheryl is simply the best. She has upheld the values of our organisation at the highest level and is an inspirational leader and an outstanding lifesaver.
Life membership to Surf Life Saving in NSW was also awarded posthumously to Pambula’s Don Hay.
Don was a significant contributor to Surf Life Saving for almost four decades. He obtained his Bronze Medallion in 1980 and quickly became involved in all aspects of the club – including becoming club President in 1994.
He held the role for 17 years straight and served a further two seasons from 2014. Don was honoured with Life Member Status at Pambula SLSC in 1997 and the Far South Coast Branch in 2008.
Surf Life Saving CEO, Steve Pearce, presented Don with his life membership pin at Pambula earlier this year. Sadly Don passed away soon after, however, his legacy lives on and the movement was delighted to celebrate his achievements on Saturday night in the presence of family and good friends.
“Don received over 100 awards during his career but this one meant the most to him,” Maria Hay says.
Surf Life Saving NSW President George Shales says the evening was the perfect way to commend exceptional efforts among the 75,000 strong membership.
“Each year our volunteer surf lifesavers put hundreds of thousands of hours into protecting the public on our beaches,” George says.
“They display courage and bravery in some of the harshest conditions. They are innovators, leaders, educators, athletes, watermen and women. They are some of the most skilled first responders on the NSW coastline and we are delighted to recognise the best in each field at our Awards of Excellence.
“As the new season is about to begin, we look forward to our iconic red and yellow flags and volunteers returning to the beaches each weekend and on-call 24/7. Our 129 surf clubs will open their doors for another year,” he says
The full list of winner from the 2019 Surf Life Saving NSW Awards of Excellence:
- Official of the Year – Louis Tassone, North Curl Curl SLSC
- Coach of the Year – Sean Golding, Sawtell SLSC
- Surf Sports Team of the Year – Under 17 Male Board Relay, Swansea Belmont SLSC
- Youth Athlete of the Year – Naomi Scott, Manly LSC
- Masters Athlete of the Year – Paul Lemmon, Terrigal SLSC
- Athlete of the Year – Jackson Borg, Newport SLSC
- Junior Lifesaver of the Year (female) – Mikala Campbell, Ballina Lighthouse & Lismore SLSC
- Junior Lifesaver of the Year (male) – Ainsley Dalton, Woolgoolga SLSC
- Administrator of the Year – Michael Cameron, Taree-Old Bar SLSC
- Services Team of the Year – Bondi Education Team, Bondi SBLSC
- Youth Volunteer of the Year – Aidan Yourell, Evans Head Casino SLSC
- Innovation Award – Development of Joint Operations Search and Rescue Capability, Far South Coast
- Community Education Program of the Year – Maroubra Marlins, Maroubra SLSC
- Trainer of the Year – Markus Meier-Lindner, Bulli SLSC
- Assessor of the Year – Mike Le Geyt, South Curl Curl SLSC
- Facilitator of the Year – Paul Duignan, Copacobana SLSC
- Youth Surf Lifesaver of the Year – Kai Darwin, Umina Beach SLSC
- Patrol Captain of the Year – Kaitlin Smith, Cudgen Headland SLSC
- Patrol of the Year – Patrol 12, Umina Beach SLSC
- Rescue of the Year – North Cronulla SLSC
- President’s Medal – Cheryl McCarthy, Bermagui SLSC
- Lifeguard of the Year – Ben Dickens, Ballina
- Branch of the Year – Far South Coast
- Club of the Year – Umina Beach SLSC
- Volunteer of the Year – Wendy Law, Broulee Surfers SLSC
- Port Authority of NSW Surf Lifesaver of the Year – Mathew Harper, Maroubra SLSC