Surf Life Saving Motion

03 November 2016
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Today I moved a motion to recognise the important work of Surf Life Saving South Australia. The text of my motion and speech are below. 

Mr SPEIRS ( Bright ) ( 11:31 ): I move: 

That this house acknowledges the incredible work of Surf Life Saving South Australia and its 20 clubs around the state's precious coastline, and in particular— 

(a) the time spent patrolling our beaches throughout the 2015-16 and 2016-17 surf lifesaving seasons; 

(b) the commitment to serving coastline communities; and 

(c) the ongoing efforts to ensure our beaches are safe for South Australian families. 

It gives me great pleasure to be able to speak on this motion. With summer upon us, it is an opportune time to reflect on the valuable role of Surf Life Saving in South Australia and to use this opportunity to place on the public record this house's sincere appreciation for the work that Surf Life Saving, the organisation, and surf lifesavers, as volunteers, do in our coastal communities across our state. 

Support for Surf Life Saving has traditionally been a bipartisan issue in this parliament and it has been an honour to work with the member for Kaurna in the formation of Parliamentary Friends of Surf Life Saving. This has given us the chance to host a number of reception events in Parliament House over the past few years where we have been able to celebrate and recognise the achievements of clubs and individuals within the movement, exposing the organisation to other parliamentarians and hopefully increasing the parliament's understanding of Surf Life Saving and what it contributes to our communities. 

Surf Life Saving has a long and proud history in South Australia, with the first club formed at Henley in 1925. This was 18 years after the first clubs nationally were established in Sydney in 1907. Henley was soon joined by Seacliff in 1930, Glenelg in 1931, Port Elliot in 1933 and Moana in 1938. A period of some difficulty then emerged, and I am grateful for the Surf Life Saving South Australia website for providing some of this interesting history. Basically, a dispute arose between the Royal Life Saving Society, which had traditionally had responsibility for beach safety in South Australia, and the role of Surf Life Saving clubs came into conflict with these traditional stewards of the water. 

South Australia's coastal waters were actually officially declared inland and it was declared that any clubs would have to be part of the Royal Life Saving Society rather than of Surf Life Saving. It took 13 years and much meteorological evidence to declare South Australia's beaches the responsibility of Surf Life Saving and, in October 1952, Surf Life Saving South Australia was given affiliation to the national body. 

This led to a period of rapid growth across the state, with Port Noarlunga being formed in 1952, joining the original five clubs. Brighton and Semaphore followed in 1953, then Christies Beach in 1954, Grange and West Beach in 1955, Whyalla and Chiton Rocks in 1957, South Port in 1959, Somerton in 1960, North Haven in 1967, Aldinga Bay in 1978, Normanville in 1998 and, much more recently, Goolwa in 2010. In 2013, Robe, in our state's South-East, became the latest to join the ranks, with a club being formed there. 

In recent times, the South Australian organisation has seen considerable professionalisation, with a move in 2012 to impressive new premises known as Surf Central at West Beach. Last year, there were 8,625 Surf Life Saving members in South Australia and 2,917 young people involved in nippers. Patrolling members contributed 79,099 patrol hours, and 375 bronze medallions were awarded. South Australia has also been fortunate enough to display what it has to offer at an international level in lifesaving, hosting the Lifesaving World Championships at Christies Beach and Glenelg in 2013. Due to the phenomenal success of that event, South Australia will host them again at Glenelg in 2018. Those events have also, on both occasions, been held at the state Aquatic and Leisure Centre at Marion. 

Although Surf Life Saving got underway in South Australia in the 1920s, it was not formalised until the 1950s. Between the 1920s and the 1950s, women were allowed to participate in surf sports because there was no formality around the organisation. Bizarrely, when it was formalised, national rules came into play and women were not allowed to compete, an approach not actually rectified until the early 1980s. Things have improved markedly since then, with women now making up 50 per cent of incoming membership; however, women still do not hold many leadership positions within the movement. This led to the formation of Surf Sisters in 2015. 

This innovative program creates a leadership development and social network that aims to assist women develop into leadership roles within Surf Life Saving in South Australia. The goal is to see women's involvement on the representation side of Surf Life Saving grow to 50 per cent, to match the 50 per cent participation figure. I am certain that the organisation will meet this role, given the dynamic leadership provided by Clare Harris, Surf Life Saving SA's CEO and an unwavering advocate for women in leadership. I congratulate the member for Reynell on her involvement as patron of the Surf Sisters program. 

Surf Life Saving plays a vital role in building stronger, healthier communities, with each of the clubs in our state playing host to a strong sense of camaraderie and encouraging fitter, healthier members through active involvement in beach sports, a need to complete regular proficiencies and a lifestyle revolving around the great South Australian outdoors. It also teaches important life-sustaining skills, from first aid to CPR, to swimming skills and water rescues. In 2015-16, Surf Life Saving in South Australia performed 258 rescues, undertook 19,337 preventative actions and 920 first aids. 

With those statistics in mind, there is no doubt that Surf Life Saving in South Australia is fulfilling its role as a vital emergency service, helping to sustain that very Australian pastime of going to the beach and doing so safely. The organisation is also reaching into areas where it might not traditionally have had involvement. Of particular interest is the On the Same Wave program, an initiative which, although not limited to it, has a particular focus on young people from multicultural backgrounds who often do not have the water skills that will keep them safe, so as a group require more attention focused on engaging them in the benefits and risks of living in a coastal community and the skills they need to stay safe and stay alive. 

Many members would be aware that I have a very personal connection with Surf Life Saving. I have been involved in Surf Life Saving in South Australia for far longer than I have been in public life. For me, it is an intrinsic part of my life and the lifestyle I chose to have when my family moved to Australia. In fact, like many Brits, having grown up on an unwholesome diet of watching Home and Away when I got home from school, I thought it was almost compulsory to be a surf lifesaver if you lived by the beach in Australia. That is one of the reasons, probably not the primary reason, why I pursued an interest in surf lifesaving when we arrived in Australia. I have been a member for many years of Brighton Surf Lifesaving Club in the heart of my electorate, and it is an incredibly important part of my personal community as well as the community I am privileged to represent here in this parliament. 

At a local level, my understanding and knowledge of surf lifesaving is obviously shaped by the area that I represent, including not only the Brighton Surf Lifesaving Club of which, as I have mentioned, I have been a long-term member, but also my involvement in the other two clubs in my electorate, those being Seacliff Surf Life Saving Club and Somerton Surf Life Saving Club. Seacliff, Brighton and Somerton are among the largest clubs in the state. 

I believe that Somerton has had over 1,000 members in the past and has about that number at the moment. They are all thriving clubs that play incredibly vital roles not just in keeping our beaches safe but also in building that sense of community along our coastal areas with many hundreds of people having active involvement in these clubs not just as patrolling members but also as social members attending dinner at these clubs on Friday evenings to eat at the bistros, to be among family and friends and to take part in social activities. 

I think of the Brighton Jetty Classic and the jetty sculptures, which are incredibly important community events. They are the largest community events in my electorate in any given year, hosted by Brighton Surf Lifesaving Club. There is the Swim, Paddle, Run event organised by Seacliff Surf Life Saving Club and the Somerton Signature Challenge run by Somerton Surf Life Saving Club. These events and the community hubs created by our surf lifesaving clubs should not be overlooked as they are also integral parts of our coastal community that ought to be valued, upheld, celebrated and supported. 

I want to thank the volunteers who are so involved in surf lifesaving in my local community that I represent. At Seacliff Surf Life Saving Club, the president, Andrew Chandler, and his support team were recognised earlier in the year when they were named South Australia's surf lifesaving club of the year. I was disappointed that they were narrowly pipped at the post for the title of national surf lifesaving club of the year, but I am convinced they came very close to taking that award as well. It is a fantastic club there at Seacliff, and they have built a very strong community in recent years. 

As many members would know, they have partnered with me locally in developing the Beach for All initiative to create equitable access to beaches for people with a disability. Seacliff was the first club to pioneer that. That took a lot of work by them. It was not something that could just be easily rolled out on the beach in a couple of minutes. It takes commitment from the club and commitment from the individual members to make that happen. I have put it on record here before, but I want to put on record again the incredible contribution that Seacliff have made to making Beach for All and that equitable beach access project a viable possibility. 

I want to congratulate the members of the Brighton Surf Lifesaving Club, led by president Christopher Parsons. Again, as I have mentioned, Brighton is an incredibly strong surf lifesaving community, and central to that are their annual events—the Brighton Jetty Classic and the jetty sculptures—that they run there. The Brighton Jetty Classic is South Australia's largest open-water swim, and it is a fantastic event held on the first Sunday of February each year. 

Finally, the northern boundary of my electorate is where you find Somerton Surf Life Saving Club on Repton Road at North Brighton. This is another great club. It has also, while I have been the representative for that area, been named South Australia's club of the year a couple of times. It is a strong club, a thriving community and a great place to be a member. 

In conclusion, I would like to thank all those who work in and volunteer with Surf Life Saving SA and its 20 clubs in our coastal communities around the state. They form a vital emergency service. Sometimes they are overlooked and not seen as an emergency service in the same vein as we might think of the SES, the CFS or the Metropolitan Fire Service, but they are absolutely a vital emergency service. They are keeping our beaches safe and making our coastal communities stronger and healthier. 

We wish all surf lifesavers in South Australia a successful and very safe 2016 season. I hope that not only do they get the opportunity to enjoy the contribution they make to the community through their involvement in Surf Life Saving but that they also get the opportunity to enjoy getting down to our beautiful beaches and being part of our Australian beach culture. 

Extracted from Hansard