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A deserving duo of Central Coast lifesavers are the latest recipients of Surf Life Saving Australia Life Membership – just reward for their tireless efforts across many decades volunteering within their community.

Shelley Beach SLSC’s Don Van Keimpema OAM and Brett Harrod from Umina SLSC were announced as the latest to earn the prestigious accolade.

SLSA Life Membership is given to members who go above and beyond in their duties and responsibilities in surf life saving, and who have shown distinguished voluntary service to the movement over a sustained period of at least 20 years.

“Life Membership of Surf Life Saving Australia is the biggest honour available to members so to have two from within the ranks of Surf Life Saving NSW recognised by the award is a fantastic achievement for all involved,” Surf Life Saving NSW President, George Shales said.

“It demonstrates the strength of our membership that we have two volunteers who are worthy of this accolade, and is a reminder of the fantastic work that many of our members are a part of – work that plays a vital role in engaging with and helping the community.”

Reflecting on the announcement last week, Don was both proud and humbled to be recognised as a valued contributor within his club and the wider community.

“They’re a vital part of the community as a whole, there’s people from all walks of life that go down to their local surf club,” he said.

“The camaraderie among members, people I can call at any time and they’re happy to help with whatever needs to be done, that’s the reason you do it.

“The club has supported me in everything I’ve done, I love the club. I would never think about leaving.”

Of the 26 years that Don has been an active member of the Surf Life Saving community, 19 of those have been dedicated to officiating on the beach and in the pool at a local, branch, state, national and international level.

He has contributed significantly to surf sports at a state and national level and has implemented pathways for female officiators to progress through to senior ranks.

“I just think it comes down to the enjoyment you get out of it,” Don said.

“I get the most satisfaction out of watching younger members grow and enjoy the movement.

“How they enjoy surf sports in particular, the joy of competition, triumph or defeat, and keep coming back for many years, that’s the key thing that I get out of it.”

Brett, too, has taken great enjoyment out of the pathways and opportunities afforded to youth through his home club, Umina SLSC.

Through his 44-year journey with Surf Life Saving, he has held the President role at Umina SLSC, for the Central Coast Branch and Surf Life Saving New South Wales, and has been a Director of Surf Life Saving Australia, but it’s his efforts at grassroots level that sit best with him.

“There’s not too many positions I haven’t held, I’ve done a bit of everything,” he said.

“What I’m really pleased about is that we develop our youth and continue to do so, providing pathways through sport and through life.

“In particular, there’s many growth opportunities through leadership programs that help them be better people.”

Those intangible rewards – the ones that mean something to you on a personal level – are what will keep the pair involved for years to come.

It’s not about the recognition, it’s about laying the foundations for continued success.

“I think I’ll be around for a long, long time,” Don said.

“It’s too big a part of my life now to let go.”

“When you’ve been around as long as I have, it becomes a part of your life,” Brett added.

“I met my wife through Surf Life Saving. It’s really shaped who I am.

“This award is recognition for my family, really. They’re the ones who have supported me to do what I love doing.”


Don Van Keimpema OAM

Don has been instrumental in surf sport development within NSW but also nationally, contributing through the education and training of Officials. Of particular mention was his involvement in the Youth Pathways Cup – Don played an integral role in the recruitment of Senior and Technical Officials to deliver the event. He was involved with the project from its inception and is credited for the success of this pathway event through his combined vision and commitment to its staging. As a result, its legacy will be the long list of youth who have transitioned from the Cup into their Interstate and Australian Lifesaving Teams.

As a Surf Life Saving Australia Officials Advisor, Don implemented pathways to progress female Officials into senior Officiating roles. He worked with woman across the country to establish the best fit to maximise their Officiating appetite and progress their skills for senior roles. Don constantly reviewed the process to ensure female Officials were supported and mentored through their journey. Don can be credited in developing many of the female senior Officials roles we see on the beach at national events. His sustained contribution at national events as Deputy Referee stretches over many years, both on the beach and at the pool. He was named the Official of the Year in 2012.

Don has had extensive international Officiating experience, commencing in 2005 at the World Games in Germany where he was Deputy Referee. In 2006, Don travelled to Malaysia to deliver Officials and Coaches courses to Malaysian lifesavers. Don furthered his international contribution in 2013 in Sri Lanka where he developed and delivered Official’s accreditation, mentoring them in their new roles.

Brett Harrod

Brett has held the President role at Umina SLSC, for the Central Coast Branch and Surf Life Saving New South Wales, and has been a Director of Surf Life Saving Australia.

In that position, Brett chaired and facilitated working groups that implemented a number of lifesaving initiatives that have been implemented nationally by Surf Life Saving Australia and other states.

He achieved the Surf Life Saving Australia strategic goal of financial sustainability by securing $24 million to build eight new clubs, allowing them to generate revenue and engage with the local community. Further to this, Brett led and managed the implementation of the commercial operations of Surf Life Saving Services that included lifeguard and commercial training.

Brett’s significant achievements also include developing the Standard Operating Procedures for Lifesaving Services and a state-wide Emergency Services Response System which created a national best practice standard. He introduced ‘13SURF’ – the 24-hour rescue call out service, and developed a national event venue selection matrix which enabled a review of venues against a set selection of criteria to determine its suitability to conduct events.

Thursday 16 September 2021