Somerton Surf Life Saving Club

16 October 2014

Mr SPEIRS (Bright) (16:43): I rise today to congratulate the Somerton Surf Life Saving Club on being named South Australia's surf club of the year at this year's surf lifesaving excellence awards.

Last Friday 10 October, I had the pleasure of attending the Surf Life Saving South Australia Awards of Excellence at Surf House, West Beach. It was an excellent evening, not too formal, not too casual, attended by His Excellency the Hon. Hieu Van Le, the Governor of South Australia, the Leader of the Opposition, the Minister for Emergency Services and several other members of parliament.

It was a night of genuine recognition for the many surf lifesavers and clubs that give so much to South Australia's coastal communities. As a long-term patrolling lifesaver at Brighton, I am a passionate advocate for surf lifesaving, the service it provides and the community it helps to build. Surf lifesaving is a way of life and I believe that it spectacularly captures what it means to be Australian.

At the excellence awards on Friday night, the highly competitive awards were presented. I would like to congratulate the 2014 Surf Life Saving South Australia Club of the Year, Somerton Surf Life Saving Club, for capturing the title and, while I was sad to see my home club of Brighton relinquish the title after securing it in 2012 and 2013, I was delighted to see this prestigious honour stay with a club which is within the boundaries of my beautiful electorate. As club president, Scottish-born Mark Strachan stated when he received the award—

An honourable member: Is that relevant—Scottish born?

Mr SPEIRS: Absolutely relevant! The club's success is down to the culture it has built within. In fact, Mr Strachan said that 'culture is the new black' at Somerton. The club has made a sustained effort to build a strong, vibrant community which people are flocking to be part of. It is a family club with a strong emphasis on youth development but also one which connects and builds relationships with the parents of young people who are involved.

In recent years, the club's membership has doubled, and last season I was pleased to be able to attend the celebration at Somerton when membership topped 1,000 and members gathered to write the figures '1000' in the sand using hundreds of club members to form the numbers on the beach. An aerial image of this figure was taken, and this image is now found on the surf club's 2014‑15 membership card.

While Somerton is the only club in South Australia to have 1,000 members, it is not all about the numbers, and the title of Club of the Year was not awarded simply because of rapid membership growth: it was much more than that. Clare Harris, CEO of Surf Life Saving South Australia, summed it up well when she said:

The club introduced a clear and precise strategic plan on membership, retention strategies for youth development (SomerSquad), embedded a strong culture and family atmosphere to engage their membership base. After many years of planning and improvement, Somerton continues to operate as a valued community service, across surf sports, patrols and community hub.

Ms Harris's comments regarding the SomerSquad are particularly important and underline the club's innovative approach to transitioning young people from nippers, and youth activities, into active senior members of the club. It is widely known in surf lifesaving that this transition is not traditionally done well and lifesaving sees a substantial attrition of its membership at this juncture. The SomerSquad has a real emphasis on providing activities for, and developing leadership potential of, members in their mid-teens.

Back in April this year, I was a guest speaker at the Rotary youth leadership program run by Adelaide's Rotary clubs. It was great to see two young guys from Somerton, Max Hoskings and Jack Millsteed, attending this event as representatives of their surf club—a great example of the club investing in its young people.

I would like to pay tribute today to the club's executive, particularly the President, Mark Strachan; past president, Steve Miller; Vice President, Sponsorship, Brad Keighran; Vice President, Business Development, Mark Williams; Honorary Secretary (and marathon runner), Rob McBride; Club Captain, Ashlee Rebuli; Vice Club Captain, Maddy McBride; Club Registrar, Margie Brown; Chief Instructor, David Provis; Competition Officer, James McBride; junior coordinator, Gary Irvine; Honorary Treasurer, Graham Burfield; and the club's legal adviser, the wonderful Cathy Mayfield. These people are to be commended for their role in turning culture into the 'new black' at Somerton. Long may their success continue because their success makes our community a better place.

As well as recognising the success of Somerton Surf Club, I would also like to recognise Karen Wilmot of Seacliff Surf Life Saving Club who was named Surf Life Saver of the Year at the excellence awards. On top of that, I would like to pay tribute to Glen Patten, who was the recipient of the Surf Life Saving Australia President's Medal, which he received for outstanding and extended service to surf lifesaving in the areas of administration, lifesaving and surf sports.

Glen's commitment to the surf lifesaving movement in South Australia is phenomenal. His credentials include first becoming a member of Seacliff in 1977, which he continues to the present day, and being a member of Normanville from 1997 to 2007. He gained his bronze medallion in 1977 and has gained numerous awards to reach examiner level. He has been a club president for 15 years, a vice president for three years, on the board of management for 24 years, and he has given extensive administrative service.

Glen has been a patrolling member for 35 years, a patrol captain for 10 years and has given more than 1,300 hours of service. He has been an examiner, assessor and trainer for 30 years. He has been a surf sports official for more than 30 years including roles as state and Australian carnival official and referee. He has held numerous positions within the club and state committees and panels, including the facilities management group. He received recognition as SA Volunteer of the Year twice and Lifesaver of the Year twice, and he was awarded the Australian Sports Medal in 2000 and National Volunteer of the Year in 2002.

Glen was awarded Seacliff life membership in 1991, Surf Life Saving South Australia life membership in 2007, and in 2013 he was awarded the Surf Life Saving Australia President's Medal. This was topped off (if a little bit backward) with South Australia's President's Medal on Friday night, so he became holder of the President's Medal nationwide prior to taking the South Australian title.

Surf lifesaving is an iconic South Australian movement, providing a vital emergency service to our community and nurturing strong connected places, and stories like the ones we have heard of Somerton and of people like Glen Patten serve to illustrate the character and quality of our state's surf clubs.

Members of parliament would recently have received an invitation from the member for Kaurna and me, inviting them to attend the launch of the Parliamentary Friends of Surf Life Saving, the parliament's newest friends group. Our lunch will be held in Old Parliament House on Thursday 30 October.

This bipartisan group will look for ways to build and nurture strong, enduring, bipartisan links between this parliament and the surf lifesaving movement in our state, recognising clubs and volunteers for their contribution to our communities. I hope many of our parliamentary colleagues will join the member for Kaurna and me, along with Clare Harris, members of the South Australian Surf Life Saving Board, and representatives from surf clubs to show your support for surf lifesaving in our state.

Once again, congratulations to all those surf lifesavers who won awards at the South Australian Excellence Awards, and I wish Somerton Surf Life Saving Club, its committee and its many deeply committed members, all the best in the national surf lifesaving awards coming up on Saturday 25 November in Sydney.

Extracted from Hansard