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Address on the occasion of National Surf Lifesaving Championships, Perth.

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25 MARCH 2007

• President Ron Rankin and Mrs Susan Rankin

• CEO Brett Williamson

• Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning everyone. Marlena and I are delighted to be here on the closing day of the national

championships which, this year, celebrate the centenary of Surf Lifesaving Australia.

And what a spectacular celebration it has been.

Congratulations to you all - officials, competitors, supporters, onlookers - who this year, and over so many

years, have given so generously to ensure the safety of our beaches.

Congratulations to organisers at all levels, to those of you involved in the massive task of bringing so many

Clubs here - 196 - and in staging so many events.

From fundraising at Club level to the logistics of revamping this great stretch of famous beach to allow so

many to watch the action, it is no easy task to coordinate such a large and successful national event.

And to the competitors who have come from all over the nation, as well as from New Zealand and Japan, a

very special welcome and to our international Clubs - Australia is proud to have exported its surf lifesaving

tradition to your countries.

Looking at the standards of the competitors here this morning, and reflecting on the quality of competition

over the past week, is a most heartening experience. Surf lifesaving is an outstanding symbol of this

country’s national life, and SLA is an organisation that puts its motto of vigilance and service to great

practical effect.

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You are carrying on a tradition born 100 years ago for the most altruistic of reasons, saving life. And you do

it voluntarily.

As I noted in my Australia Day speech this year, and in your carnival program, there is no finer example of

volunteerism than in the Australian Surf Lifesaving movement. Our 113,000 lifesavers display an exceptional

sense of civic responsibility and commitment to educating and training young Australians. Your courage,

dedication and skill has resulted in the rescue of some 500,000 swimmers over the past 100 years without a

single life lost between the flags.

This is in every sense a magnificent record.

Moreover, research has shown that were it not for surf lifesavers, around 485 people would drown on

Australian beaches each year, and some 313 would be incapacitated. That this does not happen is a measure

of the enormous contribution in swimming safety you all contribute to the nation.

Tragically, in making that contribution, some of our lifesavers have given their own lives. And we

remembered these brave, dedicated Australians with a moving service this morning.

Our lifesavers gladly take such risks every day as they patrol our vast and often treacherous coast; a

reminder that our beaches are dangerous places and that the enormous public service given by our lifesavers

must never be taken for granted.

Too often those of our Australian lifesavers who have sacrificed their lives in the saving of others have been

rescuing swimmers who have not followed the cardinal rule of the Surf Lifesaving movement - swim between

the flags.

I would like to further congratulate the Surf Lifesaving movement for its growing community education

programs which seek to educate beach goers on how to enjoy the great natural asset of our beaches safely.

These programs are deserving of the widest community support.

We have not always been a nation of beach goers of course. Until early in the last century it was illegal to

bathe on beaches in daylight hours. Change in habits has been accompanied by change in technology. The

belt and reel has largely given way to inflatable rescue boats, jet skis, four wheel drive bikes and


But the guiding precepts of the movement are enduring - the courage, the dedication, the skills handed on to

each new generation:

physical fitness and first aid skills; and life skills including self-esteem, confidence, teamwork, communication

and citizenship.

And, whatever lies ahead, as centenary historians have noted, "the volunteer surf lifesaver wearing his or her

red and yellow quartered cap will continue to provide the heart and soul of the organisation".

On behalf of our nation and all our beachgoers, we are indebted to you.

Thank you all.

Keep up the great work and enjoy a wonderful carnival finale.

Page 2 of 2 Governor General of Australia ~ Speeches