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It has been six years since the State’s Surf Life Saving Clubs got together in one place. More than 350 surf lifesavers from across NSW met in Sydney last weekend to share ideas, discuss challenges and plan for the future of the iconic movement.

How to stay relevant and inclusive, and harness innovation to work smarter strategically where key themes.

It can be a tough gig running a club, no matter the size. Each person is a volunteer and each faces the same issues around retention and recruitment, chasing grants and funding as well as how to foster inclusion and protect the wellbeing of members.

This 2018 State Conference addressed these common concerns and introduced delegates to the new Surf Life Saving NSW Strategic Plan 2018-21.

Surf Life Saving NSW CEO Steven Pearce said, “the best ideas come straight from the surf clubs. Importantly, we’re a family. This is the first time in a long time 129 clubs have come together in a family reunion. This weekend was all about sharing ideas, talking about the way of the future, sharing innovation we know is out there, the culture the members want to see and seeing the one direction we need to pull together to thrive in the next three years.”

Officially opened by the NSW Minister for Emergency Services, the Hon Troy Grant MP congratulated surf clubs on the lifesaving work they do and the contribution they make to the community.

“Our clubs are amazing,” said Minister Grant, “they’re so highly skilled and trained and such a valuable part of our community, but the community is asking them to do more in different ways and there are challenges out there. How do we make sure there is a consistent funding flow, how do we make sure infrastructure is up-to-date and how do we keep the evolution of technology flowing out?”

Keynote presentations focussed on why surf clubs need to embrace culture change and how to better communicate and engage with members.

“We know that emerging generations are looking for organisations that have a great purpose. Surf Life Saving has that in terms of protecting lives and engaging with communities on the beach,” said social researcher and analyst Ashley Fell.

“Every club has amazing stories they can share of how they’ve made a tangible, powerful difference in people’s lives,” said Belinda Moore from Strategic Membership Solutions. “It’s by sharing those stories and making people understand how they can be part of that coming together to make a positive outcome, where your communications can become very powerful.”

The conference also highlighted the outstanding journeys of some of the state’s smallest clubs.  Attendees welcomed the opportunity to hear so many stories and experiences of other clubs and the way they’ve re-shaped how they work and engage with members.  

The Innovation Incubator was an adapted Shark Tank concept which threw up some interesting, outside the square ideas. The winner of the session was Sue Neil from Woolgoolga SLSC and Director of Education for the North Coast Branch. The pitch was for a framework of co-operation to deliver advanced education awards in smaller branches.

Another main area of focus for the Conference was member wellbeing, child protection and fostering an inclusive environment.

Harnessing the strengths of people living with disability and embracing and welcoming all members was the topic of a presentation delivered by Gary Driscoll from the Lifesavers with Pride group. Gary gave attendees some great advice on how to make their club a welcoming place for LGBTI members.

“What we want is a surf life saving culture that reflects everyone in the surf club as much as we value everyone on the beach,” said Gary Driscoll, Chair of Lifesavers With Pride. “The key is to treat everyone the same way.”

Feedback from Conference attendees overall was overwhelmingly positive.

“We want them to share the learnings and insights from the Conference with others in their club and we’ll be making many of the presentations available to the broader membership to foster an ongoing sharing of ideas,” said CEO Steve Pearce.

Friday, 3 August 2018