A tree begins to regrow again after devastating bushfires on the NSW South Coast. Photo: Paul Jones

Far South Coast surf life savers recognised for actions during bushfire emergency

Far South Coast surf life savers recognised for actions during bushfire emergency

UOW bestows prestigious Community Fellowship Award on Far South Coast Branch of Surf Life Saving NSW

The University of Wollongong (UOW) awarded the Community Fellowship Award to the Far South Coast Branch of Surf Life Saving NSW (SLSNSW), recognising its outstanding contributions in supporting communities during the unprecedented bushfire crisis of the 2019/2020 Summer.

The Community Fellowship Award is the highest honour presented by the University in recognition of a community organisation for their exceptional service to society.

The Far South Coast Branch patrols one of the most extensive and some of the most isolated stretches of the New South Wales coastline, spanning 230km and 184 beaches from Batemans Bay in the north to the Victorian border in the south.

As the devastating bushfires approached Far South Coast communities on New Year’s Eve 2019, selfless volunteers from Far South Coast Surf Life Savings Clubs put everything on the line for their communities. Their actions embodied the organisation’s commitment to protecting and saving lives. They provided much needed basic supplies such as food, water, first aid, and shelter to communities affected by these fires.

UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Patricia M. Davidson congratulated the volunteers at the Far South Coast branch of SLSNSW and said their selfless contributions were an example of communities working together during the most challenging times and looking after each other.

“It is an honour to present the Community Fellowship Award on behalf of the University to the Far South Coast Branch of Surf Life Saving NSW,” Professor Davidson said.

“The invaluable contributions made by SLSNSW’s Far South Coast Branch to keep communities safe and secure during the devastating bushfires was a selfless act of humanity that saved and protected many lives.

“The leadership shown by the Branch during the crisis kept visitors and residents safe on the beach, and the University is forever grateful for the volunteers’ tireless work in keeping our communities safe.”

SLSNSW deployed a taskforce of lifesavers equipped with Inflatable Rescue Boats (IRBs), aerial drones, jet skis and first aid equipment for water response and evacuations in the Shoalhaven and Far South Coast.

Today, SLSNSW has also partnered with other emergency services to lead collaborative efforts in exploring and deploying effective new search and rescue techniques that can be utilised across Australia.

Tony Rettke, President of SLSNSW Far South Coast branch, thanked the University for recognising the work and efforts of the volunteers during the bushfire crisis.

“It is an honour to have received this recognition from the University,” Mr Rettke said.

“The devastating bushfires created many challenges for the volunteers, but their dedication to keeping the community safe throughout the devastating period had remained the utmost priority for them. SLSNSW remains committed to keeping the region safe, thriving and connected.”