The Marilyns

25 February 2016
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Mr SPEIRS (Bright) (15:25): It is Sunday 7th February and I am sitting on my paddle board providing water cover for the Brighton Jetty Classic, South Australia’s most successful open water swim, hosted and organised by Brighton Surf Life Saving Club.  

After two hours of watching swimmers from a myriad of age groups complete the 400 metre loop of the Brighton jetty, the landscape suddenly changed.

On the beach a warm glow emerged. A blonde haze began to gather at the water’s edge. From my vantage point in the water I was able to hear the Royal Australian Navy Band march down Jetty Road, and now I could see who they were leading to the beach: a group of 107 Marilyn Monroes. It was an amazing sight.

The Marilyns made it to the water’s edge, each with a blond wig, brilliant white swim suits, and themed rubber rings hugging tightly around their waists.  

I had spent two hours watching hundreds of rubber capped amphibians slice through the water and now my vista was about to change. The Marilyns had arrived. 

The Marilyn swim, an initiative of Brighton local, Sarah Tinney, raised over $53,000 in 2016, taking the cumulative total over the three swims since 2014 to $113,000. In 2014 there were 57 Marilyns, in 2015 this was 100 and in 2016 it was 107. The Marilyns have not only had statewide and national coverage, but their story has also been covered by international news networks.

There is no doubt that the Marilyns have become a phenomenon. But the story of their genesis is as important as their present day success. Back in 2006, Sarah Tinney’s mother Esther, living in Michigan, discovered she had uterine cancer. Living in Australia, Sarah felt far removed from the situation, but wanting to do something, she contacted South Australia’s Cancer Council and ended up running a Biggest Morning Tea event in honour of her Mum’s battle. This was the beginning of an incredibly fruitful relationship.

Not long after this, Sarah’s Mum passed away, but not before Sarah told her Mum she was going to help cure cancer, channeling her grief into action.

Several years later, following a discussion with Brighton Surf Club stalwart, Robyn Parsons, Sarah decided to participate in the Brighton Jetty Classic dressed as Marilyn Monroe. Upon reflection she thought why only one Marilyn? Why not multiple Marilyns?

And so it began! Sarah invited every woman she knew to become a Marilyn. Cajoling them into fundraising action. In 2016 she was even joined by her daughters, mini Marilyns, Ingrid, 10, and Isla, 4.  

Interestingly there are already 50 online registrations for next year’s swim, with momentum continually building. There is hope that in 2017 there will be so many Marilyn’s taking part that two swims will be required.

Outside of the swimming Marilyns, there are another 60 volunteers involved behind the scenes. They are led by an organising committee comprising Sarah Tinney, her next door neighbour Sarah Ventress, along with Sally Day, Fiona Blinco, Shelley Woodward and Katharina Howard. All of these women live in the local area and bring their own special skills and experience to the committee. 

Now Deputy Speaker, back to the swim on February 7th. I’m sitting out on my paddle board and the Marilyn’s begin their 400 metre jetty jaunt. Now this is a swim, but I’m not sure any of the Marilyns were swimming. They were floating, splashing, kicking, bouncing, bobbing, metre by metre towards me. A living wave of blond wings and white bathers, one of the most bizarre, hilarious and fantastic sights I have seen.  

I do not know the collective noun for Marilyn Monroes, perhaps it’s a peroxide of Marilyns; a vibrancy of Marilyns; a laughter of Marilyns, or a spectacular of Marilyns. Whatever it is, it was there in all its glory at Brighton three weeks ago.

Out in front was my good friend, Marino resident Cheryl Gardiner, who was travelling, regally, swan-like, through the water, at considerably faster pace than the others. As she said when she crossed the finish line first, it was the first time in her life she’s been first to anything!

To conclude, I’m about to do something I never thought would happen in my Parliamentary career, I am going to quote Marilyn Monroe:

‘Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.’ 

I can confidently say that the sight of 100 Marilyns laughing, paddling, splashing, giggling, thrashing and splashing around Brighton Jetty was splendidly ridiculous and as far from boring as you could get.  

To the Sarah Tinney, Sarah Ventress and their merry band of Marilyns, congratulations on your fantastic fundraising efforts and thank you for bringing fun, colour, vibrancy and fun to our great coastal community. As you often quote: Be Bold, Be Fabulous, Be a Marilyn.    

Extracted from Hansard