Australia’s top surf lifesavers honoured in annual Surf Life Saving Australia National Awards of Excellence
Australia’s top surf lifesavers were recognised for their achievements and contributions in the annual Surf Life Saving Australia National Awards of Excellence tonight.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, SLSA members came together online for the 2020 event to present 13 awards across the lifesaving, sport and education categories for their outstanding service to their communities.
Surf Life Saving Australia CEO Adam Weir said, “Each year our members give up more than 1 million hours of their time to keep our beaches safe, and the Awards of Excellence allows us to recognise our members for their commitment to their communities, and dedication to ensuring we keep our coastlines safe.
“We know the contribution our surf lifesaving community makes to Australia is significant, with the recent Deloitte Economic Impact Report valuing services provided by our members at $6.5billion per year. Our organisation has grown to be more than just the lifesaving services people see on our beaches – we provide education and training to everyday Australians, help keep people physically active, encourage and promote volunteerism and deliver real social value to local communities across the country. Tonight was our opportunity to recognise this significant work.
“Our members’ contributions extend beyond the beach, and in a year that has presented many challenges it has been inspiring to see our members remain dedicated in the pursuit of safety in their communities. From bushfires to floods, our clubs have gone above and beyond to help their local areas and keep people safe.
“On behalf of Surf Life Saving I wish to congratulate all our Award winners as well as the finalists from across the country,” he said.
Neil John from North Queensland’s Sarina SLSC took out the prestigious DHL Surf Lifesaver of the Year for his outstanding leadership as both Club Captain and President, and hard work to boost member engagement at his club. Fellow Queenslander Belinda Doman was awarded DHL Volunteer of the Year, with Tasmania’s Penguin SLSC named as DHL Club of the Year.
After a breakout season claiming her maiden Coolangatta Gold title and 2019-20 Nutri-Grain IronWoman Series crown, Noosa Heads’ Lana Rogers took out Surf Sports Athlete of the Year.
SLSA was also proud to induct three new members to the Hall of Fame, former Ironman champion Darren Mercer (Noosa Heads SLSC), International Lifesaving President Graham Ford AM (Bronte SLSC) and former beach sprint champion Elly Miller (Elouera SLSC).
SLSA would like to thank our Major National Partners DHL, Holden and Westpac for their continued support and, the Queensland Government through Tourism and Events Queensland, the Strategic Partner of the SLSA Awards of Excellence, for their unwavering support.
DHL Club of the Year: Penguin SLSC
Penguin SLSC’s continued commitment to delivering on their five year strategic plan has seen them not only exceed their life saving requirements but also their engagement with the broader local community. This has been possible through increased member numbers which allows for roving patrols, facilitating and strengthening their connection with the local school, sending quadruple the number of Nippers to States and tripled their number of advanced award holders, all with only 174 members. Adding to this, the Club has provided clear pathways for all members to become better life savers and at the same time working with fellow clubs in the area to deliver valuable community education activities.
DHL Surf Lifesaver of the Year: Neil John (Sarina SLSC)
President and Club Captain of Sarina Surf Life Saving Club in North Queensland, Neil John has worked tirelessly to improve the club’s lifesaving presence on the beach and increase member engagement, with junior membership increasing by 30%. A qualified Queensland Paramedic and returned veteran, Neil has taken his leadership skills from his professional career to ensure Sarina continues to bring through the next generation of surf lifesavers for the region. Working with the Queensland Government and local councils, he was also instrumental in spearheading the support services the Club provided during Cyclone Debbie recovery.
DHL Volunteer of the Year: Belinda Doman (Coolangatta SLSC)
Belinda holds 13 volunteer positions and leadership roles within her club including patrol captain, chief training officer, awards committee and lifesaving membership committee. In addition she holds a further 5 positions at a Branch level and sits on 2 Surf Life Saving Queensland committees. Training is Belinda’s passion and she spends countless hours developing an extensive training calendar to give members opportunities to gain new awards. Belinda is a natural leader who continuously gives to her club. She leads from the front and believes actions speak louder than words.
DHL Lifeguard of the Year: Corey Jones
Since starting his career as a Lifeguard in 2003, Corey has developed into not only a great Lifeguard, but also a great leader and team player. The former Ironman champion has created a positive and healthy environment for all who work in his area, and he does this by leading by example. On quite days he ensures all lifeguards are rescue ready by initiating scenarios as training exercises. Corey is also a valued member of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service and is always first to put his hand up to help around the hanger.
Youth Lifesaver of the Year: Campbell Shaw (North Cottesloe SLSC)
Campbell is an experienced surf lifesaver, trainer and patrol captain who made his mark as an emerging leader within North Cottesloe SLSC during the 2019/20 season. As well as achieving his Bronze Medallion, Campbell successfully initiated a new community service program this year, introducing year 10 students to surf lifesaving, generating interest and increasing North Cottesloe’s community involvement and presence. Campbell works tirelessly in the background to improve lifesaving and education at the club, and is a strong role model.
Trainer of the Year: Bernadette Flint (Mullaloo SLSC)
Bernadette’s commitment to Mullaloo and neighbouring club, Yanchep is shown through her training and skills development of others. Implementing a Youth Trainers program, mentoring fellow members allowing them to follow a training pathway and offering the wider community first aid and CPR are just a few of the many initiatives Bernadette has been involved with. Travelling to Bali with the Mullaloo Education team for the past five years, she has gained her International Trainers and Assessors Certificates with ILS. Since taking on the role as the club’s Education Manager at the end of 2019, Bernadette has demonstrated her ability, with Club members requalifying in over 600 awards, and attaining 331 new awards.
Community Education Program of the Year: Multicultural Surf & Beach Safety Program (Fremantle SLSC)
Developed to help familiarise immigrants with the beach, its inherent dangers and who they can ask for help, Fremantle SLSC has conducted beach safety sessions for newly arrived migrants since 2014. Many immigrants with limited English came from countries with no familiarity of a beach environment. The program has developed over the past five years changing the lives of the participants and providing water awareness and confidence. An unexpected impact has been on younger Fremantle members, keen to demonstrate their lifesaving skills, they enthusiastically became the ‘leaders’ of the water program. They have also learned of the hardships and journeys of the students, whilst embracing different cultures.
Innovation of the Year: Australian Defence Force (ADF) Pilot Bronze Medallion Course (North Bondi SLSC)
Former North Bondi President Mark Cotter became aware of the issues ADF members faced transitioning from service to civilian life. Seeking advice from Veteran Sports Australia and commissioned Officers at Victoria Barracks, the ADF Pilot Bronze Course was conceived. Trainers, Assessors and Facilitators from North Bondi and Bronte collaborated to focus on identifying participants’ existing skill sets and emergency response techniques. The course was fast tracked as a result and participants quickly became rescue ready for the beach environment. The impact of the program has been extremely positive for each of the candidates, creating a sense of camaraderie and new networks outside of the ADF. It is envisaged this initiative will help suicide prevention within the veteran community by providing the missing link some ADF members face when leaving the service.
Assessor of the Year: Graham Sharpe (Swanbourne Nedlands SLSC)
Graham’s excellence in assessing is demonstrated by consistently acting as an Assessor in Charge at assessments across the entire SLS suite of courses including: bronze, silver and gold medallion, emergency care and powercraft. Graham recognises leadership involves development of people and continues to mentor trainers, assessors and facilitators at Swanbourne Nedlands and others along the WA coastline. Continued service since the 2003/04 season, Graham has an impressive 138 surf lifesaving awards many of which relate to education, training and assessment.
Surf Sports Athlete of the Year: Lana Rogers (Noosa Heads SLSC)
Lana had a phenomenal 2019/20 season placing first in the Nutri-Grain IronWoman Series after winning four of the five series rounds. To kick off her season she took out first place in the Coolangatta Gold and claimed her maiden title. Coached by former Ironman Champion Darren Mercer and Sharlene Kelly, Lana is an extremely focused, determined athlete and role model, assisting with nipper sessions, sponsorship breakfasts and is always encouraging young athletes at the club. Lana continues to show support to her peers and the broader Lifesaving community.
Surf Sports Youth Athlete of the Year: Connor Peabody (Kurrawa SLSC)
Connor experienced great results during the 2019/20 season, clocking the fastest time for the Coolangatta Gold Short Course in the U19 & Opens categories. He placed first at the QLD 2k swim endurance event and won two gold medals at the SLSA Pool Rescue Championships. Connor is a valued member of Kurrawa assisting with Nipper training, school holiday camps and delivering Surf Safety Talks.
Surf Sports Official of the Year: Tamara Brawn (Point Leo SLSC)
Tamara is a fair, positive, dedicated and highly skilled role model for officiating in surf life saving. The first and only female Referee to lead a national surf boat carnival, the ASRL Open held at Mollymook, and was Referee for the National Surf Boat Team selection event. Tamara is a representative on the SLSA Surf Boat Panel and Lifesaving Victoria Aquatic Sports Executive. Tamara embodies the values and dedication of modern surf life saving.
Surf Sports Coach of the Year: Andrew Ridley (Sorrento SLSC)
Andrew is three-time SLSWA Coach of the Year Winner, an Age Manager and accredited Pool Rescue and Swim/Surf Coach for Sorrento SLSC. Developing high performance athletes at State, National and International level with a high retention and level of performance, Andrew prides himself on representing the club and Surf Life Saving, developing strong relationships with athletes and presenting a positive image as coach and mentor for new and upcoming coaches.
HALL OF FAME
Elly Miller, Elouera SLSC, NSW
Surf Lifesaving – Sport
Over a period of nine years between 2006 and 2015 Elly won a total of 13 Australian Championship Gold Medals in beach events, including 10 individual Gold Medals, plus 6 Silver and 3 Bronze medals. In 2008 Elly was named the Most Outstanding Female Competitor of the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships. Elly’s record at both a State and Australian level is one to be envied. What is not obvious with her record is the difficulty of maintaining a consistent level of success as both a Beach Sprinter and also a Beach Flag competitor, a feat that has not been matched by many others. Elly has had an outstanding career at the highest level of SLSA sport competition and is well-regarded by her peers for her professionalism and willingness to help others.
Darren Mercer OAM, Noosa Heads SLSC, QLD
Surf Lifesaving – Sport
Darren has had a long and illustrious career in Surf Life Saving over many years as an exemplary athlete and more recently a successful coach of a number of Australian champions. Darren started his competition career in NSW, gaining Austinmer’s first ever Australian gold medal in the U18 ironman. Darren also competed with success in the Coolangatta Gold winning two consecutive years. Darren was selected to represent Australia on five different occasions. During the late 1980’s Darren dominated the Kellogg’s Nutri Grain series for a period of eight years. Darren moved to Noosa Heads as Head Coach, a position he still holds today. He has achieved success with athletes on both Australian and International stages, including the Coolangatta Gold and the Nutri Grain Iron Series.
Graham Ford AM, Bronte SLSC, NSW
Surf Lifesaving – Administration
Graham started his distinguished career in surf lifesaving as a Nipper parent at Bronte in 1985. Gaining his bronze medallion in 1992 he maintained a 100% patrol record at Bronte for over 28 years. Graham was recognised at Branch level as both Volunteer of the Year and Member of the Year. He was further recognised at State level as Volunteer of the year in 2006. Graham has numerous state and branch awards as well as over 120 national awards including SLSA Life Membership in 2017. Throughout the period 2016-2019 Graham lobbied and met on numerous occasions with senior Federal Government Ministers including the Prime Minister, Treasurer and the Attorney General to secure a commitment to multi-year funding of Water Safety in Australia. In 2014 Graham initiated the establishment of a “Corpus Fund” for Surf Life Saving Australia to raise $20 million by 2020 to ensure the future sustainability of the Movement.