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Two Sydney-based volunteer surf lifesavers have been recognised in the NSW Australia Day 2020 Awards.

Doug Hawkins from Coogee SLSC was nominated for the Local Hero Award and William Chan from Tamarama SLSC was nominated for the Young Australian of the Year Award. They were among the finalists who attended the NSW Australia Day Awards ceremony in Sydney on 4 November.

Australian of the Year Awards are unique in that they allow members of the public to nominate outstanding individuals in the community and because they are judged by a panel which is free of an agenda or political influence.

The Awards recognise and encourage those in the community who are role models - because of their achievements and contributions. They acknowledge those who make a difference, those who achieve their best and those who serve others.

Being nominated for an Australian of the Year Award is a considerable achievement. It’s recognition of the selfless and ongoing commitment nominees make to the Australian community. Only four people make it through the selection process to become finalists in each of the four awards categories.

Doug Hawkins, who was nominated in the Local Hero category, was recognised for his exemplary volunteer record and his visionary approach to inclusive training programs. In particular, he was recognised for his approach to teaching refugees and migrants life saving water safety skills, so they can safely participate in Australia's beach culture.

“It was a fantastic experience. To be nominated was one thing, but to be a finalist among thousands of nominations was incredible,” said Doug Hawkins.

Doug’s continuing contribution has been vitally important in building strong local communities and making our beaches safer for new Australians.

“For me personally it means a lot. But nobody looks for recognition in our game. You just look at the lives you have impacted – that’s the reward,” said Doug.

Doug’s commitment to the Nippers program and his work in taking surf life saving overseas; to Israel, India and the Cook Islands, was also recognised. As was his work in establishing lifesaving clubs and sharing valuable CPR and rescue skills. His work has helped to save countless people from drowning.

“I don’t believe Surf Life Saving has had two people nominated in the same year, in the same state before. This is a first for the movement so we must be doing something right,” said Doug.

“It was amazing, but it won’t change anything for me – I’ll just keep rolling,” said Doug.

Doug Hawkins, Coogee SLSC

William Chan’s nomination acknowledged his exemplary contribution to the Surf Life Saving movement. As an award-winning surf lifesaver, he has fostered inclusive communities by teaching surf safety to more than 2,000 refugees and migrants. He is a champion of social inclusion, diversity and education and an outstanding role model to many young Australians.

“I feel very honoured and humbled that I’ve been supported by my community and have been encouraged to continue with what I’m doing to build communities and to address social inclusion,” said William Chan.

“My passion is about designing dignity into our community. At Tamarama SLSC it has been about engaging migrants and refugees. It’s about opening up Australian beaches to be enjoyed by all - regardless of where you come from. Surf Life Saving can be a great platform for people wanting to drive change,” said William.

William was also recognised for his contribution to some of Australia’s most important social housing, rapid transit and urban regeneration development projects. He has pioneered architecture solutions and participated in the World Economic Forum, UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and UNICEF, as a former Young Ambassador.

“Being involved has reminded me that it’s great to live in Australia and be part of a country that celebrates community spirit and celebrates unsung heroes,” said William.

“We are at a critical time in leadership. From a grass-roots level, up to our elected leaders, it’s important to recognise that there is a gap. Young people are rising up to create change. It’s empowering to see people working in the community and having ideas for Australia’s future. They are taking action right now. Age isn’t a barrier,” he said.  

William says being nominated for Young Australian of the Year has been a positive experience.

“I’ve met inspiring people who have motivated me to keep doing what I’m doing. Hearing the extraordinary stories of what other Aussies have been doing, why they do what they do, and the results and impacts of their work, has been really encouraging,” said William.

William Chan, Tamarama SLSC

President of Surf Life Saving NSW, George Shales, congratulated William Chan and Doug Hawkins on their Australia Day Awards nominations.

“Being nominated in the NSW Australia Day Awards is a significant achievement. I would like to congratulate both Doug and William on their well-deserved nominations,” said George Shales.

“Doug and William truly epitomise our organisational ethos of saving lives, creating great Australians and building better communities. We thank them for their ongoing contribution to the Surf Life Saving movement and the community,” Shales concluded.


Thursday 7 November 2019