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There is one night each year where the best of the best surf lifesavers in Australia come together. The 2018 Surf Life Saving Australia Awards of Excellence was held at the Art Gallery of NSW with an audience of extraordinary volunteers.

Achievements across innovation, surf sports, education, training and assessing, life contributions and exceptional bravery in rescue were celebrated in the company of 270 surf lifesavers and dignitaries.

As the largest state body in the country with 129 clubs, NSW is proud to nominate it’s top members and groups for the prestigious awards. This year NSW cleaned up, bringing home eight of the 13 awards and three meritorious awards of recognition.

SLSA’s President Graham Ford AM spoke this evening about the important contribution Australia’s surf lifesavers make to the community. “The National Awards of Excellence is an opportunity for Surf Life Saving Australia to recognise the amazing achievements of our members,” Mr Ford said,

“By hosting these awards, we are not here to just honour our finest surf lifesavers but to motivate and inspire the next generation moving through the movement,” Mr Ford said

SLSNSW CEO Steven Pearce was proud of every member nominated for an award and recognised the winners greatness within their clubs and communities.

“This event showcases the best of the best in Australia each year,” he said. “What it drove home tonight was that we are all from the same tribe. We are just red and yellow through and through.

“Tonight NSW cleaned up and we stand at the top of the tree with the best lifeguards, lifesavers, education, clubs, training programs and athletes.

“What stood out tonight was that there wasn’t one person that wanted to take the focus for themselves. It really epitomises what our membership is about and to see them recognised on the national stage makes us extremely proud.”

Richard Cole the outgoing president of Avalon Beach SLSC stood tall amongst 25 of his club members after being named the DHL Club of the Year.

“This means so much to us,” Said Cole. “Our great achievement this year was working together as one club. As a movement, we’re doing incredible things as lifesavers and we really can be the heart and soul of our community.

“Across the board we raised our patrol attendance, patrol hours, the number of Bronze Medallions and SRC certificates we trained as well as doing well financially which allowed us to purchase new lifesaving equipment.”

A lifesaver for over 20 years, Matt Slattery from North Avoca SLSC continued to surprise himself winning the esteemed DHL Surf Lifesaver of the Year award ahead of an impressive list of nominees. “I’m ecstatic and honoured to win this award,” Said Slattery following his win. “Surf Life Saving is a big family for me. It’s the red and yellow family. Anywhere you go you can fit in and feel part of it, there’s something for everybody.

“Winning the national award is mind-blowing. I’m just an ordinary person doing volunteer work and there are a lot of people around the country doing the same as me, but with a lot less than what I have.”

James Turnham of Port Macquarie and the Australian Lifeguard Service took out the DHL Lifeguard of the Year award. “I’m very honoured to win this award, but I’m just doing my job,” Turnham said. “There are many other lifeguards that give their job everything as well.

“Community education is a highlight within my job. We have been lucky enough to go round to the local primary schools and educate the kids about beach safety. It’s great to be part of such a community-based service.”

The Community Education Program of the Year was won by the Broulee / Canberra Nipper Program that catapulted the Far South Cost Club into a new era. “The club couldn’t be more proud of what is happening,” said the Broulee surf club. “We wanted to make sure the Canberra kids could become part of the iconic Nippers program. By partnering with the Broulee surf club and having them support us and now with Mollymook, it’s a great way to spread the education to all the kids, no matter where they live.

“It has grown our club exponentially. The Canberra families traditionally come to our beach for their holidays and now they’re coming and instead of being rescued, they’re the rescuers. It’s a really amazing thing to see.”

19-year-old Jemma Smith from Umina SLSC has topped off her biggest year yet with the Youth Athlete of the Year award. She started off winning one of the Nutrigrain Ironman events, made the Australian Team and took out female competitor of the Australian Championships for 2018. Despite her fast track to success, the NSW sport star doesn’t forget where she comes from.

“I always strive to be the best role model I can be especially for females on the Central Coast and in my community. Hopefully I can influence the younger girls to be all that they can be and get involved with their club.

“Umina has been so supportive of me from the under sixes right through. They’re such a family orientated club and have really supported me and my family right the way through. They’ve been the foundation of where I’ve come from and what I’ve achieved today.”

2018 Surf Life Saving Australia Awards of Excellence Winners:

To read more about our NSW recipents, please click on their name

DHL Surf Life Saver of the Year Matthew Slattery, North Avoca SLSC, NSW

Matthew has over 20 years of surf lifesaving experience at North Avoca SLSC. More recently Matthew has gained his Gold and Silver Medallions (Aquatic Rescue, Beach Management, Advanced Emergency Care) as well as his Rescue Water Craft certificate.

Matthew’s current role within the club as President has seen the club membership grow their skill-set. He has been the Central Coast Duty Officer for two years and attended Surf Life Saving Australia’s Masterclass program. Matthew’s can-do attitude encourages others around him immensely, and he is an excellent mentor, happy to share his knowledge and skills with others.

DHL Surf Club of the Year. Avalon SLSC, NSW

Central to Avalon SLSC club ethos is their policy of ‘One Club’. As a group they strive for excellence through leadership by example. The club adopted a Strategic Plan in 2017 which provided a detailed set of goals, strategies and performance indicators that set an ambitious set of targets across nine strategic priorities, from Lifesaving, Club Development and Sustainability, through to Nippers, and Surf Sports.

Avalon SLSC prides itself on being rescue ready with a large member base also on the emergency call-out team. The opening of a new club-house has engaged the local community with such events as Christmas Carols at the Beach and the Lion Island Swim. Avalon SLSC is a pillar of the local community.

Lifeguard of the Year James Turnham, NSW

Education has been a vital aspect of James’ role with the Australian Lifeguard Service. Over the past season he has delivered presentations to over 4,000 school students as well as leading pilot Surf Rescue Certificate programs to year 11 and 12 students. James has been a first responder to numerous incidents as well as being a media spokesperson for some very high-profile incidents.

James has shown courage, strong leadership and compassion in some very challenging situations. James also coordinated the Department of Primary Industries Unmanned Aerial Vehicle program in Port Macquarie and provided UAV surveillance for the NSW State Championships.