8 January 2024

Manyana inspiration: Surf rescue stations planned for Lake Conjola following drowning

| Katrina Condie
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Beach rescue station

Seven rescue stations have been installed at Bendalong and Manyana beaches. Photo: Patti Bartlett.

Following the installation of seven surf rescue stations in the Manyana and Bendalong area, plans are in the pipeline to have rescue tubes and an automated external defibrillator (AED) installed across the channel at Lake Conjola.

The Lake Conjola Community Association plans to apply for a $5000 community grant which will cover the cost of purchasing and installing the rescue station at the Lake Conjola Boardwalk.

The equipment could save the lives of locals and visitors who swim, surf and fish in the lake and at the isolated, unpatrolled beach which claimed the life of a man aged in his forties on 30 December.

According to police, members of the public attempted to rescue the man from the surf and he was declared deceased at the scene after paramedics and members of Surf Life Saving NSW South Coast (SLSNSW) attended.

Community Association president Melanie Guise said the grant would also provide a defibrillator for the Hoylake Reserve at Conjola Park and she hopes to gain funds for another rescue station at Buckley’s Beach to the south of Conjola Beach.

Long-time Manyana resident, surfer and co-author of the Five Villages book Patti Bartlett said it would be fantastic to see rescue stations installed on the southern side of Lake Conjola, with the recent drowning highlighting the urgent need.

There is a unit located on the northern side of the channel, near the Cunjurong Point stairs, but she said it could not be accessed from the Conjola side when the lake entrance was open to the sea.

The rescue stations around Manyana and Bendalong were funded and installed by the community, thanks to donations from both permanent residents and holiday homeowners, as well as proceeds from the sale of Five Villages.

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Patti said each station cost the community about $3500 which included two rescue tubes, a defibrillator, storage box, signage and installation.

Fortunately, she added, the devices haven’t been required over the summer holidays as yet, but have been welcomed by the many visitors to the area.

“The feedback has been really positive,” Patti said.

“People have been asking for Council to install them at Lake Conjola and other areas, but they don’t realise ours have been fully funded by the community.

“We have a really proactive community and so many people have jumped on board to support the initiative.”

Following the installation of the first stations at Washerwoman’s Beach, South Inyadda Beach and the middle of Manyana Beach, Patti said a holiday house owner from Manyana rallied $8250 from 10 families to pay for another two.

“They’re all from Sydney, have houses here, are regular visitors and wanted to stay anonymous. They love the area and are happy to be part of the community,” Patti said.

Another couple, Lesley and Tim Dunn, donated the entire cost of two more surf rescue stations which were installed at North Manyana Beach and the northern side of Lake Conjola entrance before the Christmas holidays.

The entire proceeds from the sale of Five Villages, written by Patti and Jenny Cleary, have also been donated to the project, with the slogan ‘Buy a Book, Save a Life’ helping to take the community tally to more than $23,000.

There have been drownings and many near misses at beaches in the area over the years, including a rescue at Inyadda Beach on 12 December and, with the increase in visitors, Patti said the rescue stations were vital.

“We live in a geographically isolated and unpatrolled beach area with a large influx of visitors. There have been drownings here,” she said.

Rescuers can put the rescue tube harness over their shoulder and across the body, and carry the tube to the water, then swim with it behind them to rescue swimmers in trouble.

“We decided to put two tubes in each box as often the rescuer also needs rescuing,” Patti said.

Additional defibrillators have been installed for 24/7 use in other locations around the village, including at the community hall, cafes, real estate and beach carparks for the use of the general population.

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Patti moved to Manyana in 1977 and is part of a passionate, three-generation South Coast family of surfers. A long-time visitor, Jenny moved permanently to Manyana in 2010 to enjoy the lifestyle.

The pair wrote the Five Villages book to provide a pictorial history of the area which includes Berringer Lake, North Bendalong, Bendalong, Cunjurong Point and Manyana.

Patti said she would be happy to help other communities in the area produce a historical, fundraising book to raise funds for surf rescue stations or other community infrastructure.

Locals and visitors will have an opportunity to learn more about beach safety when Professor Rob Brander (aka ‘Dr Rip’) visits Manyana in the coming weeks, while a community defibrillator education session is also in the pipeline. Dates and details will be posted on the Five Villages book Facebook page.

Original Article published by Katrina Condie on Region Illawarra.

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