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It is with great sadness that Surf Life Saving NSW advises the passing of Life Member Donald Hay of Pambula SLSC.

Don was an outstanding surf lifesaver, leader and major contributor to the development of the Far South Coast Branch for almost 40 years.

Described as a visionary, he was central to every aspect of club life; lifesaving, education, inclusive programs, surf sports and support operations. Don’s impact was far reaching and an inspiration to all. 

Don gained his Bronze Medallion in 1980 at his local club. He quickly became integral to the club, taking on leadership and development roles across all areas. This included Powercraft and Surf Boat Captain, as well as First Aid, Radio and Chief Training Officer roles before being elected onto the Board of Examiners in 1983.

By 1994 he was elected President of Pambula SLSC where he served 17 consecutive years, driving the construction of the new clubhouse, building the club’s public profile and continuing to advance his skills as a lifesaver. Don served two further years as President from 2014-2016.

Don achieved his Gold Medallion in 1996. Not only was it a great personal achievement, but a first for the Branch.

In 1999 Don received the prestigious NSW Volunteer of the Year Award for his service to Surf Life Saving. In the same year he was invited to join the SLSNSW team to travel to Greece to train and assess lifesavers. It was the beginning of a long and strong relationship with the country and the expansion of lifesaving for the Greek people.

In surf sports, Don worked to bring the NSW Country Championships to the Far South Coast. In 2005 Pambula hosted the event and Don worked closely with Richie Lytham to deliver the successful inaugural event.

The same year, Pambula SLSC initiated the Special Nippers Program, later renamed the Same Wave Program. It was one of the first inclusive surf programs in the country, leading the way with fun, educational and supportive opportunities for members living with disability.

Don was a strong leader and passionate about his Branch, initiating a support operations group in 2008. He was one of the first Duty Officers and attended hundreds of out-of-hours emergency callouts including assisting with the Tathra bushfires in 2018.

After being awarded SLSNSW Life Membership in November 2018, the ABC spoke to Don about what being part of the organisation meant to him. He was a proud and hard working volunteer.

“The red and yellow plays a very significant part in people’s lives these days and we are recognised within the community for keeping people safe,” said Don.

“Every time I come down here and put on the red and yellow shirt or jump on a jetski to rescue someone, I feel like I’ve done something good. Instead of hearing someone has drowned as a result of a rip, is that they have been pulled out to go back to their family and have the rest of their life with them. There’s just no better feeling.”

To Far South Coast President Tony Rettke, Don was not only a valuable surf lifesaver and member of the Branch, he was also a good friend.

“Don will be remembered in the community as a champion,” said Tony Rettke. “His personal achievements in Surf Life Saving are unmatched within our Branch and are up there with the very best in NSW and Australian lifesaving.”

He concludes, “Don, you have fought the battle for longer than most could have ever handled. You will be missed more than you would ever have believed and you have left your mark on so many. Thank you.”

On behalf of all members, Surf Life Saving NSW offers our sincere condolences to Don Hay’s family and friends including his wife Maria and son Jack.

Don was 53 years-old.

The funeral service for Don will be held at Pambula Surf Club at 10am on Saturday 30 March 2019. 

Tuesday 19 March 2019