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Many of those who keep our beaches safe as volunteer surf lifesavers also defend our country as members of the Australian Defence Force. This ANZAC Day, we thank them for their service.

On weekends, Louise and Owen Skjeime are active members of Garie Surf Life Saving Club and Bondi Surf Bathers Life Saving Club, patrolling the NSW coastline as volunteers. On weekdays, they work full-time with the Royal Australian Navy.

Louise has been involved in Surf Life Saving since she was eight years old. She achieved her Bronze Medallion in 2003. Owen followed suit, achieving his Bronze in 2011. This year will mark Louise’s 14th year in the Royal Australian Navy. Owen followed in his family’s footsteps and has enjoyed a long career in the Australian Defence Force.

“Surf Life Saving has been a big part of my life and when I met Owen I introduced him to it and he hasn’t stopped,” Louise told Surf Life Saving NSW.

“I enjoy giving back to the community both on the beaches and in my service. I’ve looked into the history of both the ADF and Surf Life Saving and it’s good to see you are able to do both and give back in this way,” said Owen.

“I love the friendships that you make in Surf Life Saving. I still have friends I joined with in the Under 9s,” said Louise.

Both Louise and Owen say there are many similarities in their work with the Australian Defence Force and their volunteer work with Surf Life Saving.

“There is definitely a similarity between surf lifesaving and the forces when it comes to working as a team saving lives – or preventing something happening,” said Owen.

“The common link between Surf Life Saving and Navy is the camaraderie. Being a part of a small team sitting on the beach keeping people safe when they come to swim. In the Navy you’re part of team with a mission to keep the country safe,” said Owen.

Owen and Louse are passionate about the importance of commemorating ANZAC day – even in the midst of the Coronavirus lockdown and social distancing orders.

“It think it’s really important for everyone to still commemorate, even though we can’t be out there marching. It’s respect for the fallen who’ve protected our country,” said Owen.

“If we don’t look back on our past, we’ll never be able to look forward to our future. Without our service people and our lifesavers who are also service people, we wouldn’t have a future.

“It’s a day where people should stop and reflect back on the past and be thankful for what the men and women did and still do - not only in the services but out on our beaches - providing a service to keep us safe,” he said.

Louise works in Maritime Logistics Support Operations. When she’s at sea she supports the medical and firefighting teams. She says it’s one job - with many hats. Owen says he has the best job in the Navy.

“I’m a chef in the military - catering for all the personnel. Whether I’m on the shore or at sea, everyone sees me three times a day! It’s the best job ever,” said Owen.

“I don’t see it as an organisation, I see it as a way of life. I’m giving back not only with Surf Life Saving but I’m also giving back to something I’ve been given the opportunity to do by the guys that went before us.

 “The guys who’ve fallen before us have set the way to keep this country free and it’s my way of respecting that and giving back,” Owen concluded.

On Anzac Day Louise and Owen would normally proudly attend the Dawn Service but this year, due to the Coronavirus social distancing restrictions, will instead join the RSL’s Light Up the Dawn initiative which asks people to stand in their driveway, balcony or living room and remember all those who have served in Australia’s defence forces.

Surf Life Saving NSW is encouraging members to wear their patrol uniform while participating in RSL NSW’s Light Up the Dawn initiative at 6am this Saturday, 25 April.

Surf Life Saving NSW’s short visual commemoration of ANZAC Day 2020 can be viewed online.

For information about Light Up The Dawn and to pledge your participation this Anzac Day, click here.