It is wonderful to be here at North Bondi. It is my surf club. I’ve been associated with this surf club since I could barely walk. My dad was a member and I used to come down here as a little boy. I learnt everything, I learnt a lot of things about life in this surf club.
They are amazing institutions. They are characteristically Australian. Totally egalitarian.
Everyone is the same when they are in their swimming costume on the beach and it is a great, it is absolutely the epitome of Australian values, the surf lifesaving movement. It is about service, it is about community, it is about partnership, a solidarity and it has just got bigger and bigger.
Graham talked about 45,000 volunteers and nearly 11,000 rescues last year but there is also the way in which the lifesaving movement, the surf lifesaving movement connects with the community. Think of all the thousands of the Nippers and Bridget is a lifesaver as well, she understands this.
In fact, Bridget and Greg – come up and join me. It’s New Year’s Day, right? We’re relaxing! Bridget McKenzie, Minister for Sport. Greg Hunt, Minister for Health.
And we’re committed to keeping Australians safe in the water. And we know that the work of Surf Life Saving Australia of which Graham has spoken, the Royal Life Saving Society and of course AUSTSWIM are vitally important.
You know, nearly 300 Australians died of drownings in the last year, in the last year to 30 June. And it has grown to over 18 in the month of December.
So water safety is never been more important.
Now what we have done is over the last 5 years we have provided $15 million. We are extending that now to another $3 million for the year through to June 30, 2019.
And what that will enable, is as Graham said, for surf clubs to fund additional equipment including drones which I think is very exciting.
You know, there is one very good way to find out what is going on out the back past that break, whether there is somebody out there is struggling, is to be able to send the drone out to have a look. That’s a great example of technology.
And of course Graham and I are old enough to remember the joys of rescuing people in belts. You needed the line, didn’t you Graham, because by the time you got to the patient you were so exhausted, you were almost in as much trouble as him.
So, anyway, all of that technology is vital.
But in addition, the work that the Royal Life Saving Society does in terms of teaching people how to swim, teaching people all of the first aid techniques, AUSTSWIM’s programs, are critically important.
And I just want to emphasise the message that Graham has given about safety on the beach – swim between the flags, follow the directions of the lifesavers that you’re getting.
They are there to keep you safe and as Graham said, if they can’t see you, if the lifesavers can’t see you, they can’t help you. So it is really important to be critically aware.
I mean, as I said, I spent much of my young life on this beach. It looks very placid today and it generally is – it’s a safe beach, I would say, compared to many others, but you can get into plenty of trouble here at Bondi.
I remember as a kid out just of Ben Buckler here, falling off my surfer plane, and getting into a lot of, I was in plenty of trouble and I can still see – it’s hard to talk about this without being a bit emotional – but I can still see my father swimming through the surf, swimming through and he got me.
That is what lifesavers do. And that’s what we have to do to look after each other here, particularly with kids. Particularly with kids on boogie boards, surfboards, because often they are out for a long time, they get very tired, they fall off their board or they lose their board they can get into plenty of trouble.
So that is why it is important to take the advice of the lifesavers, swim between the flags and above all make sure that you know how to swim and your kids know how to swim and they’re alert to the dangers of the water.
It is so enticing, particularly on a hot day. It just looks like heaven out there and it is but it can very rapidly becoming a dangerous environment.
So it is wonderful to be here. This club, I mean it looks, I can tell you it hasn’t been this flash for a very long, it was only recent years we’ve had this new club. It used to be a rather interesting old place, old structure. Probably should have been condemned long before it was replaced. But this is the heart of the Australian spirit. It is about service, it is about mateship, it is about looking after each other. And what better place to start 2018 than here at the very heart of everything that makes us Australians here at this surf club, North Bondi Surf Club, at a surf club like all of the clubs around the country that keep Australians safe every year.