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Surf Lifesavers from the Far South Coast were rewarded at the 2019 Surf Life Saving NSW Awards of Excellence last weekend. They won four awards in recognition of their outstanding performance last season.

The annual Awards of Excellence honour outstanding achievements in all aspects of surf life saving. A record number of lifesavers from across NSW attended the event held in Sydney on 31 August.

Television personality and Surf Life Saving member, Tom Williams, hosted the evening. He shared the stage with the state’s top surf lifesavers as they were honoured in front of their peers. 

Punching well above its weight, the state’s most southern branch took home four awards including Branch of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, the Innovation of the Year and the President’s Medal, awarded to Cheryl McCarthy from Bermagui SLSC.

Almost 500 of the state’s top lifesavers heard how the Far South Coast clubs and Branch have championed the development of new processes in partnership with other emergency services for remote search and rescue incidents. They are leading the way with multi-agency operations with the Police and SES.

“Our branch works so hard and we'd be nowhere without the forward-thinking of our Board of Directors and amazing members," said Branch President Tony Rettke.

The Far South Coast Branch proudly run several inclusive surf education programs, new carnival formats to increase involvement and continue to support inland Nipper development programs.

"We might be one of the smallest branches in the state, but we have some of the most hard-working, passionate and innovative members who put not only their day jobs on the line to respond to call-outs 365 days of the year, but also their lives on the line to save others,” Rettke continued.

Over the last year the branch responded to 35 emergency callouts, supported by the combined efforts of their seven clubs and the Support Operations Team.

"I'm so proud that our clubs can be recognised for their efforts in a room of amazing lifesavers, for the second year running. It's a real thrill to be here and accept this award on behalf of the Far South Coast,” Rettke concluded.

Wendy Law from Broulee Surfers SLSC received the Volunteer of the Year Award.

Wendy has demonstrated outstanding commitment since she joined the organisation in 2005 and has a true passion for Surf Life Saving.

“It’s really amazing. There’s a long list of volunteers. I didn’t think I stood a chance. But there you go! I’m so proud to be recognised as volunteer of the year,” said Wendy.

Wendy has a well-deserved reputation in the club, branch and the state as someone who gets the job done efficiently and effectively.

“I guess it’s recognition of what I love to do behind the scenes. I don’t actually get in the water, but I do pretty much everything else. I do the best I can do at branch and club level.

“It’s such a worthwhile purpose and people who get involved see that straight away. I’m very proud to be part of it!,” said Wendy.

Wendy’s many roles and her commitment are seen through her willingness to provide ongoing support to individuals and clubs. She manages a multitude of roles with incredible efficiency, patience and good humour.

“The Far South Coast is very unique. We have a lot a distance between our clubs but we’re very close,” Wendy concluded.

Volunteer of the Year Wendy Law with SLSNSW President George Shales.

The Far South Coast Branch also took out the Innovation of the Year Award.

The Branches Support Operations team has become a highly respected and integrated part of the emergency services fabric after multiple demonstrations of professionalism and expertise during critical incidents and search and rescue callouts.

The team was recently tasked with identifying new and innovative ways to improve traditional operational responses. The result was outstanding new capabilities that are a first-of-their-kind in the state. Club callout teams, jetski operators and drone pilots have all been involved.

“There’s a lot of distance between our clubs on the Far South Coast. We need to use every asset we have available to get the job done. Having the Marine Rescue NSW vessels on-site mean that we can dock our IRB onto their vessel and move to the site of an incident very quickly,” said Connor Leayr from Pambula SLSC.

The benefits are not only to the Far South Coast Branch but also across the state with the research and collaborative work resulting in new and innovative search and rescue techniques being explored. This work has enhanced the ability of assets to reach remote locations more quickly and efficiently as well as extend search times.

“If we can launch an IRB or a UAV from a Marine Rescue vessel it expedites our search capability and allows us to extend their search patterns. Our drones can cover a very wide search area,” said Euan McKenzie from Bermagui SLSC.

“I do it as a hobby and I love it. So when the club offered drone training, I saw it as a great opportunity. Our UAVs are like a flying set of eyes,” concluded Connor Leayr.

Cheryl McCarthy from Bermagui Surf Life Saving Club is one of the hardest working and best-known surf lifesaving volunteers on the Far South Coast.

This year Cheryl was presented with the President’s medal by George Shales, Surf Life Saving NSW President. This award recognises a very special and outstanding contribution made by a member of Surf Life Saving.

Cheryl embodies what being a volunteer lifesaver is all about. Highly respected for her leadership and enthusiasm, her commitment to the Far South Coast Branch and in particular the Bermagui SLSC, has made her a role model for lifesavers everywhere.

“Surf Life Saving is a huge part of my life. It takes over my world in a really good way. I love it. It makes me feel good every day knowing the things I’m working on are important,” said Cheryl McCarthy.

Cheryl has been instrumental in introducing flexible patrol rostering at Bermagui, which revitalised the club from struggling to meet its patrolling requirements, to being oversubscribed for patrolling members.

“We’re doing some really fabulous things with Marine Rescue with joint capabilities. Watching both our teams working successfully and effectively together means a lot to me,” said Cheryl.

Cheryl currently holds multiple positions including; Far South Coast Director of Lifesaving, Branch Duty Officer, Director of Administration at Bermagui SLSC and is a member of multiple committees and working groups advising on policies and procedures at the state and national level.

“I love the Far South Coast Branch. It’s a really innovative branch and the leadership team loves to try things. It’s fun to be a part of that,” Cheryl concluded.

Cheryl McCarthy, Bermagui SLSC

New Life Member of SLSNSW, Donald Hay from Pambula, was recognised for his significant contribution over four decades.

In an emotional presentation, Don’s widow Maria Hay accepted Don’s SLSNSW Life Membership on his behalf.

“Don received over 100 awards in his 39-year career in Surf Life Saving but his Life Membership meant the most to him,” said Maria Hay.

He obtained his Bronze Medallion in 1980 and quickly became involved in all aspects of the club - including club President in 1994. He held the role for 17 years straight and served a further two seasons from 2014. 

“Don was so proud. This award was the ultimate recognition of his life’s work in Surf Life Saving.

“As per Don’s wishes, it was this award that took pride of place alongside his patrol uniform and his ashes on top of a rescue board at his celebration of life,” Maria said.

Don achieved Life Member status at Pambula SLSC in 1997 and the Far South Coast Branch in 2008.

“Don devoted his life to Surf Life Saving and Surf Life Saving in turn, filled Don’s life with riches and joy,” Maria concluded.

Surf Life Saving NSW CEO, Steven Pearce, presented Don with his life membership pin in person in Pambula earlier this year before he sadly passed away.

NSW Surf Life Saving Awards of Excellence – Far South Coast Recipients

  • Branch of the Year - Far South Coast

  • Volunteer of the Year - Wendy Law (Broulee Surfers SLSC)

  • Innovation of the Year - Far South Coast Support Operations

  • President’s Medal - Cheryl McCarthy (Bermagui SLSC)

  • Life Membership SLSNSW - Donald Hay (Pambula SLSC)


Friday 6 September 2019