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The Surf Life Saving movement in NSW is sustained by the dedication and passion of volunteers – some 76,000 state-wide and many more across the country who often go above and beyond to ensure our coastlines and, more broadly, our coastal communities are welcoming, safe, and enjoyable.

To celebrate National Volunteer Week – one which recognises the vital support that millions of volunteers in our country provide to their communities and encourages people to consider volunteering – many of our members will receive ‘postcards’ to thank them for their efforts this past season and for all the seasons that have come before.

As part of a campaign by Surf Life Saving NSW, members were given the opportunity to write a ‘postcard’ to a fellow volunteer as a personalised thank you to those who make a difference across the organisation.

Nearly 1,300 postcards were sent out as a result of the campaign and, among them, were change makers and contributors at all levels.

Leigh Robbins is a single mum who patrols out of Brunswick SLSC on the Far North Coast. A former Branch Lifesaver of the Year, Leigh is an integral volunteer at one of the region’s smaller clubs, with just over 40 active patrolling members.

“Our average patrol hours are between 70-80 and this season I think Leigh has probably done around 150 hours,” Leigh’s nominator, Simon Ceglinski said.

“She’s our Club Captain, she’s integral to what we do, she fills in for people who can’t be there and she’s committed to upskilling.

“She’s a younger person in the context of Surf Life Saving and it’s nice to have that young and enthusiastic voice around the club.

“She’s also a single mum which I think makes her contribution just that bit more incredible.”

A little further south at Tacking Point SLSC, each of the club’s 11 Patrol Captains were nominated in a mass recognition attempt by the club’s administration. Twenty-five postcards were sent thanking volunteers including patrol members, Age Managers and the Board of Management for stepping up during a big season.

Andrew Birch, Brent Wilkinson, David Moore, Grant Dezius, Hamish Black, Kim Rayner, Mitch Dawson,Murray Thompson, Peter Murphy, Steven Wilkinson and Tony Spitzer are the Tacking Point Patrol Captains, with the nominating team stating they “couldn’t differentiate between them, so thought it would be nice to do something for each.”

“I love the idea (of the postcards) and thought it was really good,” nominator, Leanne Hatherly said.

“Everyone we nominated stepped up this year, you can’t run a patrol or run Nippers without these people and they selflessly put their hand up to do it and show up every week.

“They do it without recognition and without thanks a lot of the time, I just think it goes a long way to bringing people back and making them feel good to show that they’re appreciated.”

Leigh Robbins and Julie Smith are among those recognised by the postcards

At Fingal Beach SLSC in Port Stephens, 68-years-young Julie Smith can often be found patrolling the popular stretch between the Spit and the Point.

“I’m on her patrol and when the beach is quiet, she often pulls her knitting out and we always take photos of her working,” Julie’s nominator, Angela Freeman said with a laugh.

“Julie just always shows up and is enthusiastic and lovely, she helps me a little behind the scenes in my admin role and I think it’s great that she’s still just loving the movement and loves to be involved.

“She also brings her grandchildren down for Nippers which is great to see that continuation through the years of her family.”

On the Northern Beaches, Jane Pender juggles competing priorities in her jack-of-all-trades role at Manly LSC, helping the club out in almost literally every aspect it requires.

“She has a social life, but she puts it all on the back-burner for us,” Jane’s nominator, Bec Crawford joked.

“Jane just finds a gap and she fills it – if she’s needed somewhere, she goes there.

“We have various resources available but when we’re short, people just contact her directly because she has this rapport with everyone.

“Most of all, though, she’s unassuming. She doesn’t do things for accolades.”

Nor does Ben Smith at the state’s southernmost club, Pambula SLSC, where, as one of the newer members of the club, he has thrown himself whole-heartedly into the Surf Life Saving movement.

“As a president, any opportunity to show your members appreciation is awesome and Ben’s special given how he’s jumped in head first since joining two or three seasons ago,” nominator and Club President, Emma O’Neill said.

“When he joined us, he was a Nipper parent and now he’s patrolling and engaged in the senior executive committee.

“He comes from a strategic project management background, so he’s been really good in helping us develop plans and implement strategies that will help us achieve our goals.”

Surf Life Saving NSW would like to thank each and every one of our 76,000 members this National Volunteer Week. Whether you spend your weekends patrolling our beaches, age-managing aspiring nippers, or taking up committee roles within your club; we greatly appreciate your contribution to the movement.

Tuesday 16 May 2023