Lifesavers Enjoy Successful Exchange

Some of the state’s most talented young lifesavers have recently returned from an exciting network and development opportunity held during the recent Australia Day Weekend.

The annual City Country Exchange now in its tenth year allows lifesavers aged 18-25 who are either already in or have demonstrated potential to take on future leadership positions within their clubs or branches the chance to travel to Northern NSW if they’re based in the metropolitan areas or to Sydney if they based in regional areas.

During their respective visits, program participants were given a tour of emergency service facilities, participated in patrolling activities at either Ballina or Bondi Beach, and have had the priceless opportunity of networking with other likeminded individuals.

Following the conclusion of the program two participants – one from each of the exchanges will be selected to travel to New Zealand in March where they will have an opportunity to work with the Surf Life Saving New Zealand community in a series of exercises and workshops.

SLSNSW caught up with two of the participants from the program 23 year-old Mitch Bell from the Woonona club, and Sita Mason (20) from Manly to get the lowdown on their experience.

The duo are experienced lifesavers with Mitch holding his Bronze Medallion for almost 9 years, and Sita having been a member of Manly since the tender age of five.

What was the highlight of the program for you?

Mitch Bell - Connecting with new people that share the same engagement and passion for SLS. Seeing how the Sydney Club operate in a completely different environment. Conditions are similar but the beach attendance is substantially different.

Sita Mason - The City to Country SLSNSW Exchange to Byron was a weekend jam-packed with a range of exhilarating and challenging activities, and a great opportunity to broaden our lifesaving experience and skills, whilst fostering strong inter-club relationships and foster lasting friendships.

Overall, the highlight of my trip was being able to meet like-minded members from across the Sydney branches, who have similar aspirations within their respective clubs and branches. More specifically however, my favourite activity was our visit to Ballina Jet Boat Rescue headquarters on our last day on the North Coast, which involved a jet boat ride in large, six-foot swell through the entry/exit of the Ballina break wall.

What can only be described as a mixture of thrill, fear and excitement, the jet boat ride was a fantastic way to end the trip, reinforcing my passion for the Surf Life Saving movement, specifically our hardworking and committed volunteers, and the essential rescue and lifesaving services that we provide.

What lessons did you learn that you can take back to your clubs and branches?

MB - I learned about Resource management in particular during quieter times on patrol. Another really important lesson that we discussed was ways to maintain focus and skills to keep members engaged on patrol.

SM - Through an engagement with the patrol practices of other clubs within NSW, as well as the practical elements of the Silver Medallion Basic Beach Management and Silver Medallion Aquatic Search and Rescue courses, the program offered me a more hands-on experience with the operations and exercises of the SLS’s rescue services, specifically helicopter and jet boat. Furthermore, with the opportunity to patrol at Ballina, Byron and Evans Head, the exchange was a great opportunity to learn about the practices and experiences of other Vice-Patrol and Patrol captains, particularly on smaller patrols, which I can now engage with and apply on my own patrol.

As the surf conditions on the Far North Coast were quite challenging for the entirety of the program, and most clubs have limited patrolling members as compared to Manly, it was particularly interesting to observe the prevention and response actions taken by various patrols. The practical skills I learnt during this program will be very useful for me personally on my current patrol, as well for the wider implementation at my surf club.

Would you encourage other young lifesavers to become involved in the future?

MB - Absolutely it is great networking and really good learning and development opportunity. You have the chance to meet some very inspirational people during the program such as Rosie Taliano (NSW Lifesaver of the Year).

SM - Absolutely! At Manly LSC, I find that I am one of the few young adults who are interested in stepping up into key leadership positions in our club, such as Patrol Captain and Club Captain, and have the long-term goal of overseeing its organisation and smooth and successful function. Thus, in applying for this program, I was very interested in meeting other youth who have similar aspirations within their respective clubs and branches, and who, like me, want to enhance their skills, and network and create strong inter-club relationships across the State.

City to Country

Gabby Tinson - Ocean Beach
Jessica Thomas - Umina
Courtney Jones – Wambera
Sita Mason - Manly
Steven Polley - North Narrabeen
John Lewin - Whale Beach
Jack Hunter - Elouera
Dani Herman - North Cronulla
Michael Bonnici - Wanda

Christine Warren (Evans Head Casino)
Shaun Hudson
Michael Tuck

Country to City

Braeden McHugh-Easy - Brunswick
Fiona Lane - Sawtell
Kadisha Haynes - Cooks Hill
Lauren Redriff - Cooks Hill
Mackenzie Smith - Cooks Hill
Darren Moses - Dixon Park
Dale Stubbs - Tea Gardens Hawks Nest
Eliza Gottaas-Healey - North Wollongong
Kaitlyn Bell - Woonona
Mitch Bell - Woonona

Nicole Krite (South Maroubra)
Rosemarie Taliano (North Bondi)
Andrew Crow

Tue 2 Feb 2016