18 June 2023

On and off the water, Stewart Dietrich knows his boats – and now he's been nominated for a Rotary award

| Claire Sams
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A middle aged white man with silver hair and white beard in a dark blue shirt

Stewart Dietrich joined Marine Rescue Merimbula in 2015 and hasn’t looked back since. Photo: Marine Rescue NSW.

Edwin ‘Stewart’ Dietrich already had a career under his belt when he started volunteering, but it’s all come from a lifelong love of the water.

“In my previous life, I’ve always been involved in a maritime domain of one sort or another,” he said.

“As a kid, I was raised on a boat in Sydney, then I joined the Navy and served for 43 years.

“After leaving the Navy, I was working in the public service and private consultancy, and so I’ve always been involved in the maritime environment.”

He joined Marine Rescue Merimbula in 2015, after bumping into a fellow veteran volunteering with Marine Rescue when the organisation was selling raffle tickets.

“I’d always planned to get back into stuff with boats when I retired, of whatever sort, and I have.”

In his time with Marine Rescue, he has trained other members in navigation and boat handling, held executive positions, helped with fundraising, monitored the marine radio network and participated in rescues.

“We take the boat out once a week to make sure it’s working and that people’s training is current, and so on,” he said.

“But we don’t get all that many callouts – Merimbula isn’t as busy as places like Sydney or Broken Bay.”

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Mr Dietrich has also spent time helping communities during floods and fires, on the South Coast and further away.

“The first one was when we had the very bad bushfires on the Far South Coast, so Marine Rescue members were invited to assist the SES and Rural Fire Service in whatever way we could.

“Some of our members were helping the fire service man the radios, while others were standing by and assisting at the evacuation centres – which is what I did.

“It was a moment of real community spirit, where everybody was helping each other out.”

In the recent Sydney and Riverina floods, he also helped with relief efforts, serving in the command centre and coordinating with SES volunteers, filling sandbags and distributing animal feed.

For his hard work, Mr Dietrich has been named a finalist in the Marine Rescue NSW agency category for the 2023 Rotary Districts of NSW Emergency Services Community Awards (RESCA).

“It’s very kind of people to nominate me for this, but I feel a bit guilty,” Mr Dietrich said.

“In a sense, I’m being awarded something for doing something I enjoy doing – working on boats and mixing with the type of people who volunteer at Marine Rescue.”

The awards recognise both paid and volunteer members of emergency service agencies from across New South Wales and nominations must come from colleagues, family members or community members.

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In the Marine Rescue category, his fellow nominees are Brunswick Unit Commander Jonathan Wilcock, long-serving Ballina volunteer Phillip Causley and Marine Rescue Jervis Bay member Leona Curran.

The winner of the award will be announced at the RESCA ceremony, to be held at Bankstown Sports Club on 12 August.

“My understanding is that all the finalists are invited to attend on the night,” he said.

“I plan to be there at this stage, COVID and all other sorts of things permitting.”

Beyond August, Mr Dietrich said he had no plans to stay on dry land (permanently, at least).

“As long as my bones hold out, as long as my health holds out, I’ll stay at Marine Rescue,” he said.

“We’ve got some fine examples here of guys a lot older than I am who are still actively involved.

“If I’m still going at the same age they are, then that will be very good.”

More information on the Rotary Districts of NSW Emergency Services Community Awards can be found online.

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