darren.chester.mp@aph.gov.au 1300 131 785
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March 10, 2010

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (7.39 pm)
— Tonight I would like to pay tribute to the Lakes Entrance Surf Life Saving Club, Life Saving Victoria and surf lifesavers across Australia more generally. Over the weekend, the Lakes Entrance club hosted the Victorian junior and senior titles. This was quite an historic occasion for Victoria. It was the first time that the titles had been held on the same beach over the same weekend, and I refer to the comments this week of Life Saving Victoria’s manager of aquatic sports, Drew Urlichs, who said:

… the 2010 Victorian Lifesaving Championships will go down in the history books as the biggest life-saving carnival the state has ever put on for its competitors. Lakes was the perfect choice to turn this vision into a reality and the weekend lived up to expectations with explosive action in the sand and on the water—from both our junior and senior competitors …

It was a great honour for the Lakes Entrance club to be chosen to host the titles, but it is nothing new for the club. In 2009, Lakes Entrance was recognised as the Australian surf-lifesaving club of the year, which is an incredible achievement for a relatively small club representing a town of 5,000 to 6,000 people and given the fact that it was up against over 300 clubs from right around Australia.

It was a remarkable effort for the club also to host the event. There were more than 2,000 competitors from right across Victoria competing, as I said, in both junior and senior events. It took an outstanding community effort for the people of Lakes Entrance, from the local businesses that helped sponsor the event right through to the volunteers. On going to an event of this magnitude you get some sense of the effort being put in by the community when you have the officials and work crews setting up the beach in the first place; mums and dads catering behind the scenes preparing facilities in preparation for the crowds to arrive; the water safety officers making sure that everything goes smoothly, particularly for the junior athletes; and the team managers managing to run thousands of young children up and down the beach to get them to their events on time.

The culture of the Lakes Entrance Surf Life Saving Club is the culture of surf-lifesaving more generally. It is the willingness of people to serve their community and to just get on with the job by everyone doing their fair share of the work at hand. The surf-lifesaving movement across our nation is, I believe, one of the most important community service organisations we have. They provide a highly valued rescue service to keep our beaches safe throughout the year. But I am also most impressed with the junior development programs that are run through Surf Life Saving Victoria and through the lifesaving movement right across Australia.

I have three children who are enrolled in the junior program at Lakes Entrance. My fourth child actually starts in the coming summer and he cannot wait to be a nipper and get on the beach. There are 5,500 juniors in Victoria who are learning skills for life from first aid to resuscitation techniques to surf safety to a whole range of water rescue techniques and water craft skills. The competition and the youth development opportunities that are available to young people through this movement are quite incredible in terms of helping to build self-esteem and confidence in the water. It is also, in terms of their broader community life, an incredibly important organisation.

Remarkably, at a time when we hear of the ageing nature of most of our volunteer organisations, it is a fact that 50 per cent of the Surf Life Saving Australia members are aged under 25. It is a very young movement in that regard and young people are demonstrating, through their willingness to get involved in surf lifesaving, that they are also willing to serve their community.

From our perspective in Gippsland it is the end of the competition season. We have had carnivals throughout the season at Woodside, Seaspray and Lakes Entrance and I would like to pay tribute as well to the members from those other clubs at Woodside and Seaspray. It shows great community spirit that the kids can get on the beach and compete, and compete fiercely, but that the moment the events are over they are sharing a sausage sizzle or other refreshments.

There are some wonderful people involved in all three of those clubs right throughout Gippsland. It is impossible, I think, to really measure the importance of getting young people involved in community organisations at an early age. I believe it helps them to build respect for themselves and it also challenges them, allowing them by competing to demonstrate their courage and resilience. When you are involved in surf lifesaving competition your courage is often tested, and the young people competing over the weekend demonstrated that on many occasions.

Most importantly, it also requires the competitors to demonstrate a respect for their fellow competitors and the officials involved. This building of respect, this sense of belonging and being part of community activity and this increasing of self-esteem through a healthy lifestyle are some of the real keys to improving outcomes in later life for our young people. I believe that governments should be investing as much as possible in such community and sporting organisations in order to provide the facilities and to make it more affordable for our families to participate in the future. They really are the hub of community life.

Finally, I would like to thank the many thousands of volunteers who have given up their time over the past summer months to help keep our beaches safe right throughout Australia. Without your dedication, Australia would be a poorer place. Surf lifesavers in their red and yellow caps are one of the most iconic images of our nation. I urge them to continue to serve with pride and I thank them for the service they have given our country over more than a hundred years.

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