The men, women, boys and girls who don red and yellow on Illawarra beaches are now officially emergency service personnel.
The vital role volunteer lifesavers play during emergency situations along the region’s coastline has been acknowledged – in writing as part of a NSW legislation change. A recent amendment to the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act 1989 has seen Surf Life Saving NSW (SLSNSW) formally recognised as an “emergency services organisation”.
Surf Life Saving Illawarra (SLSI) said the change, which took effect from December 7, reflected the significant role surf lifesaving played. “There is no other organisation that has the capability, skill and training to protect people along the NSW coastline, a role that our lifesavers have been providing for than 110 years,” SLSI said. “It’s entirely appropriate that our members and organisation be recognised for what we do.”
SLSNSW has indicated it would provide additional emergency management and support operations training for its members.
The changes to the legislation mean SLSNSW is of the same standing as the Ambulance Service of NSW, Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW Police Force and NSW Rural Fire Service.
Other services to be classified as an “emergency services organisation” include the State Emergency Service (SES), NSW Volunteer Rescue Association (VRA) and Marine Rescue NSW.
Under the legislation change, SLSNSW’s status as a not-for-profit organisation remains unchanged.
SLSI said it would continue to work with other emergency services. At present, the NSW Police Marine Area Command tasks surf lifesaving resources to coastal emergencies outside of patrolled locations and that will remain unchanged.
SLSNSW members would remain volunteer surf lifesavers and won’t be made to be involved in other emergency incidents.
However, the organisation said it now had the opportunity to “formally support other emergency services in areas of response that previously we may have engaged in on an adhoc basis”, such as offering assistance to the SES in flood rescue operations.