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This coming Australia Day, January 26, volunteer surf lifesaver Michele Bootes will be awarded the Bega Valley Shire Citizen of the Year Award for her outstanding contribution to Surf Life Saving and for establishing important inclusivity programs for people living with disability on the NSW Far South Coast.

The Citizen of the Year Awards aim to recognise outstanding achievements and contributions to the local community with nominations for the NSW Local Citizen of the Year and Young Citizen of the Year Awards. The awards are presented on Australia Day, 26 January, by the Bega Valley Shire Mayor.

Michele Bootes has had a long and active association with Pambula Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) and the Far South Coast Branch of Surf Life Saving NSW. She has trained most of Pambula SLSC’s current patrol captains and has trained, mentored and coached many more young cadets through their Surf Rescue Certificate, Bronze Medallion and Silver Medallion awards.

In addition to her extraordinary record of surf lifesaver training, Michele established the inclusive Same Wave program. This special Nipper program commenced in 2000 as a modified junior program for youth in the Bega Valley Shire with a disability or developmental delay, to enable participation in water and beach activities.

Same Wave now operates in many surf clubs in Australia and in New Zealand. The program is celebrating its 21st birthday this summer.

The program has not only assisted participants with becoming more physically active but also bridged the gap between members of the club and their understanding of the barriers people face when met with either a physical or intellectual disability.

Michele joined Pambula Surf Club in 1996, quickly achieving Life Membership in 2005 and gained her Trainers and Assessors badge in 2007.

Michele’s contribution to Pambula SLSC and to the Far South Coast Branch as a volunteer educator has been extensive. She has trained and assessed;

  • 434 Bronze Medallion volunteer surf lifesavers

  • 51 Assessors

  • 33 Trainers.

In addition to her exemplary contribution to training surf lifesavers, Michele has volunteered hundreds of hours on active beach patrol. This includes:

  • 762 patrol hours over a 15-year period

  • Ten years as the Far South Coast Branch Director of Education

  • Surf Life Saving NSW Advisory Board for Education and Special Nippers Program

  • SLSA Advisory Board for the Special Nipper Program

  • Extensive travel to promote the Special Nipper Program nationally.

Michele was awarded her SLSA National Service Medal in 2014 and the SLSNSW Facilitator of the Year for 2010/11.

George Shales, President of Surf Life Saving NSW, congratulated Michele on her award and said that she had been at the forefront of the development of volunteer surf lifesavers on the Far South Coast and important, inclusive programs.

“For over 25 years, Michele has spearheaded the development of disability programs, both inside and outside Surf Life Saving. She has continued to lobby relentlessly for funding and resources to grow and expand inclusive programs,” said George Shales.

“She has trained hundreds of surf lifesavers and is an exemplary volunteer surf lifesaver in her own right. Her generosity and commitment to her community goes above and beyond and we congratulate her on her Citizen of the Year Award,” Shales concluded.

If you would like to assist the Same Wave program as a volunteer, please contact Michele Bootes at or phone 0416 649 315.


Friday 24 January 2020