Far South Coast branch cleans up at 2019 Surf Life Saving Awards of Excellence

Members of the Far South Coast branch at the 2019 Surf Life Saving Awards of Excellence. Photo: SLSNSW.
Members of the Far South Coast branch at the 2019 Surf Life Saving Awards of Excellence. Photo: SLSNSW.

The Far South Coast branch cleaned up at the 2019 Surf Life Saving Awards of Excellence on Saturday night, August 31, taking home four awards including its second-straight Branch of the Year.

Branch director of lifesaving, Cheryl McCarthy, won the president's medal, long-time Broulee Surf Club member Wendy Law won the Volunteer of the Year, and the branch was also awarded Innovation Award for the development of joint operations search and rescue capability.

Watch Wendy Law speak about her award below

Video: Surf Livesaving NSW

The Branch has championed the development of new processes in partnership with other emergency services for remote search and rescue incidents. They are leading the way with multi-agency operations with the Police and SES where they have integrated drones, giving them greater capability to contribute to after-hours callouts.

Ms McCarthy said it was an easy task getting other emergency services on board.

"I think because we live in such a remote area, the emergency services are very willing to work together," she said. "Whenever we talk to Marine Rescue Bermagui about joint training, they're always really keen to get on board, and we've done some great work with them."

Ms McCarthy said the innovation award stemmed from the branch's work with inflatable rescue boats (IRBs) and drones.

"The award was around an IRB capability where we can get our rescue boats on the back of Marine Rescue vessels," she said. "They get us their faster and safer, and we can just drop our boat off the back of theirs to start a search.

"It gives us more search time, particularly when it's getting towards dark.

"The other part was flying our drones off the back of their vessels, which is a great capability to have during a search.

Wendy Law, Tony Rettke, and Cheryl McCarthy with the Branch of the Year award. Photo: SLSNSW.

Wendy Law, Tony Rettke, and Cheryl McCarthy with the Branch of the Year award. Photo: SLSNSW.

"We worked with SES, police and RFS as part of searches in January and March where we were able to search for items in the water using the drones.

"We were able to discount about 75 per cent of the sightings, and the 25 per cent we weren't sure of, SES would run ropes down to have a look.

"Not only does it save time, but it makes the search safer for everyone involved."

Ms McCarthy said her president's medal was "a great honour", and said it could be shared with everyone else in the branch.

"I think we do such a great job as a team that it makes it a bit easier for individuals to stand out," she said. "I'm so proud of our branch, particularly to take out the Branch of the Year again.

"We have a very innovative approach, a great leadership team, and our president Tony Rettke encourages everyone to try things differently to see what works.

"The culture he's built to be willing to put ourselves out there, it's a real testament to how successful we've been.

Mr Rettke also praised his branch members.

"Our branch works so hard and we'd be nowhere without the forward-thinking of our Board of Directors and amazing members," he said.

"We might be one of the smallest branches in the state, but we have some of the most hard-working, passionate and innovative members who put not only their day jobs on the line to respond to call-outs 365 days of the year, but also their lives on the line to save others.

Hard-working members of the Far South Coast branch at Tathra Beach. Photo: SLSNSW.

Hard-working members of the Far South Coast branch at Tathra Beach. Photo: SLSNSW.

"I'm so proud that the seven clubs in the Far South Coast can be recognised for their efforts in a room of amazing lifesavers, for the second year running. It's a real thrill to be here and accept this award on behalf of the Far South Coast."

Surf Life Saving NSW President George Shales said the evening was the perfect way to commend exceptional efforts among the 75,000 strong membership.

"Each year our volunteer surf lifesavers put hundreds of thousands of hours into protecting the public on our beaches," said George.

"They display courage and bravery in some of the harshest conditions. They are innovators, leaders, educators, athletes, watermen and women. They are some of the most skilled first responders on the NSW coastline and we are delighted to recognise the best in each field at our Awards of Excellence.

"As the new season is about to begin, we look forward to our iconic red and yellow flags and volunteers returning to the beaches each weekend and on-call 24/7. Our 129 surf clubs will open their doors for another year," he said.

This story Far South Coast branch cleans up at 2019 Surf Life Saving Awards of Excellence first appeared on Merimbula News Weekly.

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