Remarks, Launch of the Surf Life Saving Summer Season - Parliament House, ACT

02 Dec 2019
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER: Well, thank you very much Graham, and it's a great pleasure to be here with Jason Falinski and Matt Thistlethwaite, who are the co-chairs of the Parliamentary Friends of Surf Lifesaving and also to you Shane, thank you for the opportunity to be with you here today.

Also, I'm particularly grateful to the surf lifesaving movement today. It is true I’m Vice-Patron of the Surf Lifesaving Australia, but also the Sydney branch and my local clubs down in the Shire. But yesterday I completed my first one kilometre ocean swim and I was closely shadowed by the surf lifesaving movement on every single floating craft you could imagine.

Last time- when Prime Ministers venture into the surf, it hasn't always ended well. And so on this occasion, I can report the Deputy Prime Minister was able to stand down after me emerging from the water successfully.

And I want to thank all of the crew down there in North Cronulla on the weekend for what was a tremendous weekend for the Cook Community Classic.

But I tell that story because as we come into summer, as Graham said, Australians gravitate to the coast. It's part of our lifestyle. It's who we are. It's what we love. And it is ingrained in our psyche as much as the birthplace of the western interior are also, in terms of our outback.

So is also the beach and the coast and our coastal life and it is our surf lifesaving movement that through their dedicated service, not unlike the service we see from our rural firefighters who are out there as we speak today, particularly down there on the south coast of New South Wales. All those other volunteers with emergency services. And you move around our community and work so selflessly.

The surf lifesaving movement is no different to that and their courage and their bravery is significant.

30 people who still get to walk in the front door at home that night after being down in the surf because lifesavers rescue 30 people every single day.

30 people who still get to tie their kid's shoelaces or laugh with their friends or hold hands with their partners, if you saved 30 lives a year that would be remarkable. But 30 lives a month, or a week would be incredible. But 30 lives a day, saved by our surf lifesaving movement is absolutely extraordinary.

And we thank them very much for their service. As I said, there are four great clubs in my community but my colleagues who are represented here today know of all the great clubs in their community, it's not just a place where they save lives, but they draw the community together with a great spirit.

Every year around 180,000 people from around Australia give up 1.3 million hours to keep watch over our beaches.

When I attend the local AGM’s at my local surf clubs each year, the report we long to hear every single year is that on our beaches, no lives lost. Now, that is not the case on every beach around Australia, sadly.

But when we can turn up at our AGM’s each year for our local surf clubs and they can proudly state that, it is extraordinary. And, you know, it doesn't happen by accident. It really doesn't. And I want to draw attention to one particular local little hero who I think speaks volumes about our local surf lifesaving movement.

And his name's Max Taylor. Max saved a man's life on Wamberal Beach on the New South Wales Central Coast back in March. It was late afternoon and a newly arrived tourist was taking his very first swim, since landing in Australia.

He got caught in a deadly rip current and was heading out to sea. And if anyone's ever been caught in a rip, you'll know how terrifying that can be. Max heard the man's cry for help when there was no one around. So Max paddled out on his surfboard to reach him. The conditions were difficult and the swimmer was 150 metres from the shore. When Max finally reached him, the swimmer was panicked and exhausted. So Max offered him his board. They then began the long and tiring journey back to the shore. Max was huffing and puffing a bit, but he pushed the heavy board back to the shore with the person he was rescuing. Now, Max was 11 years old, 11 years old, a nipper from the local Wamberal surf life saving club.

And all of you who are members of the surf lifesaving movement will know heaps of Max’s. I certainly know them from my local clubs and the bravery those young kids show. And as they grow older, they're still doing it well into their senior years.

And Max's local member, Lucy Wicks said we're enormously proud of Max and indeed we're proud of everyone who gets out there and volunteers their time and energy to keep us safe.

Unfortunately, not every rescue ends that way. And I want to acknowledge two other heroes, Ross and Andrew Powell, father and son. One report described them as two peas in a pod. They were members of the Port Campbell Surf Lifesaving Club in Victoria. They lost their lives in rough surf, trying to save someone not far from the Twelve Apostles. And we remember them as well today and their incredible bravery and their sacrifice. And we remember what they lived for. That higher purpose. That higher purpose is beautifully summed up by a man who witnessed one of the most stunning large scale rescues in surf life saving history in our country.

It was that famous day in the late 1930s when there were three huge waves rolled into Bondi, sweeping hundreds of people off a sandbank and into a river.

More than 200 people were rescued that day and five lives were lost.

And one of the witnesses later said it is the most incredible work of love in the world. Going into the water without a moment's hesitation, risking their lives and all for love.

So I want to say thank you very much, for everyone across the surf lifesaving movement, whether those who have, into their tenth year of patrols, and having never missed one. Those who have been around for 50 years. And I presented those medals to those members of surf clubs, for those who are just joining, those going through nippers, those who are supporting in an administrative capacity on the local club boards and committees. Those, the gear stewards, those checking everything's in order. Those who are involved in the training of our young people and those doing their bronzes all the way through the movement.

You keep Australians safe and you do it as one of the most wonderful traditions of our country through the surf lifesaving movement.

Thank you so much for your service.

And to those heading towards our beaches this summer, maybe not today. But those heading towards the beach this summer, as I certainly will, swim between the flags, familiarize yourself with the conditions, and make sure you take instructions from those wearing those red and yellow caps. They're there for you to keep you safe. And so you do your job by keeping them safe, by following their instructions.

Thank you very much.