Profile of the Month: Garry Meredith

Our profile of the month for July is Garry Meredith from Ballina Lighthouse & Lismore SLSC. For over 36 years Garry has proudly worn the red and yellow and has proved to be a very dedicated and skilled Far North Coast surf lifesaver.

The Branch Duty Officer has been involved in many aspects of surf life saving including the Ballina Jet Rescue Boat and the Northern Region Westpac Rescue Helicopter. Get to know more about Garry’s time in Surf Life Saving below…

When did you join Surf Life Saving and what appealed to you about it?

I was encouraged to join Surf Life Saving in 1981 by a good friend. I grew up on Shelly Beach in Ballina so it seemed like a great way to continue enjoying the beach while being able to help the community at the same time.

What are the key lessons that you’ve learnt from your time in Surf Life Saving?

My biggest lessons from Surf Life Saving have been the value of mateship. As volunteers, we all learn to help and be there for each other. Some of my best mates are because of Surf Life Saving. It teaches great values in respect of being selfless and caring.

Tell us about your time in Surf Life Saving and what roles you have undertaken.

Soon after joining, Elton Cummings was in the process of starting up what is now Northern Region Westpac Rescue Helicopter. I was in the process of gaining as many SLS awards as possible as I was keen to put my hand up for the first group of volunteer rescue crew training in Sydney.

Unfortunately, I was one year too young for the required age so I had to wait for the second training group to go through. I volunteered for the next seven years, spending weekends and holidays at the Helicopter Base at St Vincent’s Hospital in Lismore.

After I left the helicopter service I became interested in the Ballina Jet Rescue boat and became a Crewman, Driver, Trainer and Assessor. I held the position of Jet Boat Captain for 15 years.

When Far North Coast Branch was looking at bringing in Duty Officer roles, I jumped at the chance and continue in that role today.

Describe what Duty Officers do.

The Duty Officer role involves calling in at surf clubs in our operational area, liaising with the beach patrols and responding to and coordinating taskings to incidents and emergencies.

For those who don’t know what the crew of the Ballina Jet Boat do, can you please enlighten us?

Ballina Jet Rescue Boat was a lifesaving asset that Ballina Lighthouse & Lismore SLSC identified a need for in the early 1970s after numerous incidents and fatalities on the Ballina River Bar. In around 2000, the Ballina Jet Rescue Boat became a stand-alone support service of Far North Coast Branch. The Jet Boat crew responds 24/7 to surf, ocean and river incidents between Byron Bay and Evans Head.

Describe Ballina Lighthouse & Lismore SLSC and its members.

I have been a member of Ballina Lighthouse & Lismore SLSC for the majority of my surf life saving life. Recently I made the decision to help out and join local clubs that are struggling for members. I have completed a season with Fingal Rovers and recently joined Evans Head-Casino SLSC.

What are you looking forward to about the 2017/18 season?

In August 2016, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This diagnosis came after I began to struggle with my daily routine and found that I was unable to continue my surf duties.

I have recently been given a full medical clearance so in 2017/18 I am looking forward to resuming my Duty Officer role and taking a big interest in member welfare. I also started up a not for profit PTSD awareness clothing brand. So please check it out www.frankalbertclothingco.com.

What are your goals within Surf Life Saving?

I’ve always had the goal to help people so this will continue. I would like to share my experience with members and take a bigger interest in member welfare.

What has been your best memory so far as a surf lifesaver?

There have been so many. It has been a really rewarding experience, particularly the friendships you build along the way. I love hearing about the early days of surf from the older members, including my dad who was a lifesaver in the 60s.

But I guess, it’s the reward of saving someone’s life that has to be the best part. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in many successful rescues over the years.

Who is someone you admire in the Surf Life Saving movement and why?

I admire every single volunteer surf lifesaver, for a voluntary organisation it can be a tough gig and a big commitment.

Favourite beach that isn’t yours?

Wategos Beach, Byron Bay

Photo: Garry Meredith with Today Show host Sylvia Jeffries.

Fri 28 Jul 2017