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In a true showing of selflessness, two Surf Life Saving NSW members are using their platform as finalists in the Rotary Inspirational Women Awards to turn the spotlight on the bigger picture – the organisations for which their dedication has been recognised.

Cheryl McCarthy and Fiona Lane are members of Bermagui and Sawtell SLSC respectively, and will represent their clubs and communities in the rural category in an award ceremony scheduled for September.

The Rotary Inspirational Women Awards recognise tireless and generous work individuals do in their communities. Fitting, really, as tireless and generous are two very apt words to describe Cheryl and Fiona.

“I think it’s very humbling to be nominated in the first place let alone selected as a finalist,” said Cheryl, who is the Far South Coast Branch Director of Lifesaving.

“I think for me it’s almost uncomfortable being singled out individually when I know how many people have worked hard to achieve what we have as an organisation and as a community.”

Now in her eighth year at Bermagui SLSC, Cheryl was heavily involved in the 2019 New Year’s Eve evacuations in the area which saw around 5,000 people requiring help and seeking refuge from bushfires at the surf club.

Being right in the centre of town, the surf club is the logical place to go – it acts very much as a central hub – but the sheer enormity of the effort from Cheryl and the team to offer assistance to 5,000 people from far and wide is reflected when you consider the town itself has a population of just 1,600.

Fiona, meanwhile, is coming into her 15th season at Sawtell SLSC and is a crucial cog in the day-to-day functioning of the club.

She wears many hats – Social Media Manager, Patrol Captain, Trainer and Carnival Official, to name a few – which ensures juniors right the way through to senior athletes can compete and play their role in the community.

“Surf Life Saving is my second family, I love being involved,” she said.

“I do the things I’m needed for and just stick with it. My parents have always been involved in the club but then as they got older they stepped back and I stepped up.

“Our community is such a supportive one.”

Successful on the night or not, Cheryl is grateful that the Rotary Inspirational Women Awards could spark further conversation about what can be done to assist the communities which have gone through times of suffering.

“If we can take anything from this, I’m hoping we can draw the spotlight back to the real need,” she said.

“More than 18 months have passed now since the fires and there is still a lot of suffering here, a lot of destruction as well.”

Thursday 5 August 2021