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Address on the occasion of the launch of Surf Life Saving Australia's centenary history, "Between the Flags: One Hundred Summers of Australian Surf Lifesaving"

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z Mr Ron Rankin, President, Surf Life Saving Australia, and Mrs Rankin

z Mr David Barr, State Member for Manly

z Councillor Peter Moscatt, Waverley Council

z Mr Alan Whelpton, President, International Life Saving Federation

z Mr Brett Williamson, CEO, Surf Life Saving Australia

z Professor Ed Jaggard

z Distinguished guests all

Thank you for your warm welcome this morning. Marlena and I are delighted to be here, and as Patron of Surf Life Saving Australia, it is a privilege to launch the Association’s centenary history.

Without question - Surf Life Saving is an outstanding symbol of the best of features of Australian life. Indeed in April this year at Kurrawa Beach, Queensland when attending the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships, I referred to surf lifesaving as the great Australian epic - a story of courage, dedication and skill, resulting in the rescuing of over 500,000 swimmers in difficulties since 1906.

And it is the surf club members, officials, first aid and safety officers, volunteers, coaches and staff, and the parents and families who have supported children during their formative years with the Association, who are the magnificent exemplars of that story.

As a boy from the remote mining town of Wiluna, Western Australia, I grew up with a love of the Australian bush. Yet, a view of the Australian landscape and way of life would be incomplete without due recognition of our remarkable coastline and Australians’ enduring passion for their beaches and surf.

Ladies and gentlemen. Australians have a tremendous enthusiasm for voluntary service which has in large part been born from a long history of pride in self-reliance, where people tended to help one another rather than ask for government or outside assistance. There is no finer example of this than in what our lifesavers have achieved in one hundred summers of beach patrolling. It is exemplified in their respect for human life, in their commitment to educating and training young Australians, in their sense of civic responsibility, and in their maintenance of the highest safety standards.

History records many ‘surf’ icons, including:

z Major John Bond from Bronte- one of the foremost innovators of surf life saving techniques at

the turn of the 20th century;


z Lyster Ormsby, a member of Bondi, an outstanding administrator and largely responsible for

inventing the surf reel; and of current memory, z Carla Gilbert, the greatest ever Ironwoman champion who won both the Ironwoman and

National Surf races twice and 16 gold medals at national championships; z Trevor Hendy, five times Australian Ironman and four times World Ironman amongst his

many outstanding feats; and z Your own president, Ron Rankin, is also worthy of ironman status - 40 years service in every

branch of the surf life saving movement.

One of the more pleasing aspects of the surf life saving profile is the involvement of young Australians. From early recruitment they can look forward, if they wish, to a lifetime of friendship and service. I maintain that there is enormous value for youngsters aged 12 to 17 who join well managed, responsible youth organisations such as surf life saving - benefits to be derived from healthy exercise, fresh air, teamwork, the development of self esteem and a sense of belonging to a highly valued and respected Australian institution.

Ladies and gentlemen. To say that our country is greatly indebted to Surf Life Saving Australia is an understatement. More than half a million rescues achieved, 1.4 million hours of patrol time on weekends and public holidays annually, and economic and social value estimated at more than $1.4 billion each year, underpin unsurpassed achievement by a grassroots community organisation.

It seems to me that surf lifesavers give voluntary service not because they ‘have’ to, but because they ‘choose’ to be involved. They would all agree with the observation that “I must do something” always solves more problems and overcomes more challenges than in lamenting, “something must be done”.

And as you know there is always something to be done. So thank you to the 113,000 members (more than 34,000 who actively patrol our beaches) in 304 surf life saving clubs nation wide, for keeping the legacy of service alive, for sharing your talent, integrity and motivation, and for furthering the cause of excellence and caring in this country.

May I offer a special welcome to the representatives of the founding clubs of Surf Life Saving - Bondi, Bronte, Coogee, Manly, Maroubra, North Bondi and Tamarama - what a roll call of famous, highly respected Australian clubs.

Mr President, may I congratulate you on your organisation’s splendid centenary publication. It is an outstanding record of surf lifesaving and of Australian society, depicting in the main events of the 20th century.

The contributing writers speak of the heightened status of the surf lifesaver during the First World War, when many club members joined up and served with distinction. They write of the ‘colonising of the beaches’ from the late 19th century, of changes in bathing habits, and of Australians taking to

the surf as a national birthright. Indeed it is said that ‘the emergence of surf lifesaving strengthened Australians’ sense of themselves as innovators, as a people who could devise new ways of doing things…”.

This is true. In a century where the newssheets have been filled with our achievements in science, medicine, the arts and agriculture, the sensations of sport, the election and fall of governments, wars, crimes, scandals and tragedies, our surf lifesavers have quietly, but effectively, carried out their work

without fuss or fanfare.

It would be very easy to take surf lifesavers for granted. After all, they are always on our beaches ready to assist, obliging in their manner, helpful and thoughtful in giving advice, understanding the


oceans, recognising the danger signs, and maintaining their skill and integrity as Australia's major water safety and rescue authority.

I think the centenary publication is both timely and important. It has not been produced with any sense of smug self satisfaction - though today’s lifesavers can be justifiably proud of what they and their predecessors have contributed to the nation - that no swimmer has ever died whilst swimming between the flags.

Professor Ed Jaggard and his editorial team have produced a written and visual showpiece to record a proud history, and have displayed a keen eye for the personalities, events and settings that have defined surf lifesaving and beach culture for the past century. The work is set out logically - the origins of surf lifesaving, its governance, technology, national competitions, arguments about amateur and professional status, and as referred in the book, ‘the waves of change’ - looking to the future.

It is a splendid publication and I know it will be greatly treasured by today’s lifesavers and earlier veterans of the organisation. I note with sadness the passing of one of the contributing authors, Mr Chris Conrick who himself had more than fifty years’ involvement with lifesaving.

Ladies and gentlemen. Marlena and I want to assure everyone involved in surf lifesaving that your work is greatly appreciated. You signal the day-to-day instinct for connection and care that humans feel for each other, and we admire you as an outstanding source of inspiration, courage and skill.

My message to you all this morning is simple and sincere - thank you for your magnificent work; for a job well done; and for a wonderful century of service.

On behalf of the Australian community, it is now my great pleasure to declare “Between the Flags - One Hundred Summers of Australian Surf Lifesaving” officially launched.

Thank you.