Profile of the Month: Michael Bonnici

Our Profile of the Month for May is Michael Bonnici from Wanda SLSC. At the ripe old age of 19, Michael has already made an outstanding contribution to the Surf Life Saving movement, which includes recently being announced as the U19 Lifesaver of the Year for the Sydney Branch.

The impressive teenager is always willing to help out and he has been involved in multiple development programs and delivered important surf education messages as a presenter on the Beach to Bush team. Continue reading below to learn more about Michael's time in surf lifesaving.

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

I first joined Wanda SLSC back in 2003 as a 6-year-old for my first season of Nippers. My parents were passionate about teaching my sisters and I beach safety, and therefore getting involved in Nippers was the best way to learn these valuable life skills. Surf Life Saving is more than just making up the hours for me.

It is a way of getting out of my everyday life, immersing myself in different situations being on patrol, socialising with members or educating others about beach safety. I have been patrolling at Wanda since 2010 and have enjoyed every single moment since.

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

I believe Surf Life Saving has changed me as a person. One of the most important lessons I have learnt from surf lifesaving is that there is so much more on offer than you would expect.

Most people think that you just come down to the beach to give up your time as a ‘sacrifice’. I am so thankful to Surf Life Saving for what the organisation has given back to me. Being various development programs, roles or community education, Surf Life Saving always has something to offer back to their members and for that I am extremely thankful.

Another key lesson I have learnt, is to not take life for granted and live everyday as if it is your last. Being exposed to some pretty severe incidents, lifesaving has challenged me to consider my own personal decisions going through life.

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

My time in Surf Life Saving has spanned over 14 years (including nippers). I have been Patrol Captain for 3 years now and have just completed my first year as an RWC operator for the Sydney Support Operations Unit.

I also recently attained my Gold medallion and worked for ALS as a Lifeguard over the summer period. I currently work for SLSNSW as a Community Education representative, presenting to those who have little beach safety knowledge.

I was fortunate enough to participate on the SLSNSW City to Country exchange in 2016 which was an amazing networking and learning experience and was also lucky enough to participate in the Development Networking Program. Going into next season I wish to further my involvement with Wanda, specifically with the lifesaving department to encourage Wanda as a club to grow in this area.

You were recently named Surf Life Saving Sydney’s U19 Lifesaver of the Year. Tell us about the moment you were announced as the winner.

I was extremely humbled to receive the award. While I don’t put in all the hard work throughout the season for the award, it definitely pays off. I would like to recognise the efforts and sacrifices of my family, friends, patrol members, support operation members and board members. Without these people around me, supporting me, I would be unable to commit my absolute best to the Surf Life Saving movement.

I am extremely thankful to Surf Life Saving New South Wales and Sydney Branch for giving me so many opportunities through various programs, which have developed me as a lifesaver and as a person.

Describe Wanda SLSC and its members.

Wanda is one of four clubs in the Bate bay region and has been in existence for 70 years. Wanda is well known for high ability in all competitions, with very successful results at Aussies 2017 on the Gold Coast. Wanda has over 1000 members, including nippers, with around 12 active patrols. Our members are extremely generous when it comes to getting involved with organising carnivals, social nights, volunteering for patrols, improving club facilities and educating/training members.

Wanda has a wide variety of members with some being world champions, on the Australian Lifesaving Team and many well-known life members that are also life members of SLSA and SLSNSW. Patron, Ernest ‘Solly’ Stephens OAM is a very well renowned Wanda SLSC member, being a life member for Sydney Branch, SLSNSW and SLSA.

What was your highlight of the 2016/17 season?

My highlight would have to be being involved in the SLSNSW Beach to Bush program. Being able to speak about surf education to over 1000 students in rural NSW was one of the most amazing things I have ever done in Surf Life Saving. Considering the number of drownings that have taken place over the last couple of years in New South Wales, realising the potential of prevention and education especially in rural areas was an extremely important motive for me.

What are your goals within Surf Life Saving?

My goals are to make a difference in the Surf Life Saving community. Whether that is on my patrol, my club, branch, state or even country. I want to try my absolute best while involved in Surf Life Saving so that people around me being either patrol members or board of directors will become better at what they do, which ultimately will only better the organisation going into the future.

Another personal goal of mine is to always learn new things in the organisation. One of the best things about Surf Life Saving is that there are so many educational facets being informal at the beach or formal through a course. I am so thankful for what I have learnt and so excited for what I am going to learn going into the future.

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

My best memory as a surf lifesaver so far would have to be participating on the SLSNSW City to Country exchange program. Getting the opportunity to experience different beaches, especially on the north coast of NSW was an amazing development opportunity for myself. Getting to meet so many lifesavers from around the state and discuss how we do things differently at each beach was a great privilege.

It always sticks in my mind being able to patrol Byron Bay on Australia day and getting to experience the Jet Boat in Ballina. As lifesavers, always at the same beach, we often get used to the same conditions when operating, but being exposed to this experience has definitely changed my mindset.

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

Kane Hughes is the first person that comes to mind however there are so many people that I admire in the movement. As a recent participant on the SLSNSW Development Networking Program, I was fortunate enough to hear Kane Hughes tell his story about what got him to becoming Australian Surf Life Saver of the Year.

As a fellow Bate Bay member in Sydney, his story was closer to me. I took a lot of interest in his little tips about being a successful patrol captain and about balancing his surf lifesaving life with normal family and work life. I took a lot out of his story and was extremely motivated to implement his ways into my own when at the beach.

Another person that I admire in the surf lifesaving movement would have to be my dad, Steve. My dad may just be a regular Bronze Medallion patrol member; however, he does a lot more than just patrol at the beach, always looking out for myself and my family. He is always the first one I ask when I get stuck in a situation or need some general feedback being either on patrol or at home. I am very fortunate to have him on my patrol and always there to just provide an extra bit of advice on how to manage a situation.

Favourite beach that isn’t yours?

Soldiers Beach located on New South Wales’ Central Coast. My family and I go camping there every summer for two weeks. It is the most amazing beach with the most amazing vibes. So many great memories there growing up as a kid.

Photo: Michael teaching students from regional NSW as part of the Beach to Bush 2016 program.

Wed 31 May 2017