When Gina Crick achieved her Bronze Medallion in time for the 1980/81 beach season at Woonona she became one of the first female life savers in Australia.
On Sunday she was joined at North Beach by Junior Surf Life Saver of the Year Lucy Landon for the launch of the 2020/21 season which doubles as the start of celebrations to mark 40 years of women being able to become active surf lifesavers.
Sunday's Raise the Flags ceremony signaled the official opening of Illawarra beaches for summer and was a chance to remind the community about the importance of beach safety and swimming between the flags, highlight the need for more lifesavers and explain how shark spotting will be more important than ever after recent sightings.
It was also revealed how CPR practices have changed because of COVID-19.
Surf Life Saving Illawarra director Darren Weidner said mouth-to-mouth resuscitation won't be done this year.
"We will use a therapy mask and provide oxygen that way. With COVID-19 preventing people from travelling intestate and overseas we are expecting larger numbers on our beaches this season and we hope people will practice social distancing on the sand."
Me Weidner said a drone based at Coledale will play a role in keeping an eye out for swimmers in trouble and sharks this summer. And more drones will be deployed in coming years.
"We are looking for more operators. I have a crew of 40 people being trained up this season," he said.
Pesident Peter Evert said Surf Life Saving Illawarra will continue to recognise its trailblazing women and their many achievements.
Women presently make up more than 40 per cent of all life savers but more men and women are needed.
Lucy, 14, said she started in Nippers at nine and loves being on the beach, doing something for the community, warning people of danger and saving lives.
Mrs Crick, a life member of SLS Illawarra, said having more people helping out as volunteers was more important than achieving a gender balance.
Saving lives was the reason she got involved 40 years ago and will continue to so. But she said it was nice that women were being recognised for their service
Ms Crick started at Woonona Surf Life Saving Club in 1973 and has been on patrols since 1980/81. She sad she loved how family oriented the clubs are.
Council lifeguards work Monday to Saturday while volunteers from Surf Life Saving Illawarra watch over swimmers on Sundays and public holidays. And during winter they are available for emergency call outs along the Illawarra coastline.
The launch of the 2020/21 season was considered so important it was attended by Federal Member for Cunningham Sharon Bird, NSW Member for Wollongong Paul Scully, Wollongong Lord Mayor Cr Gordon Bradbery and Deput Lord Mayor Cr Tania Brown as well Wollongong City Council lifeguards and representatives of Surf Life Saving NSW.
Beach safety tips;
- Always swim at patrolled beaches between the red and yellow flags
- Read the safety signs
- Ask a lifeguard or lifesaver for safety advice
- Swim with a friend
- If you need help, stay calm and attract attention by raising your arm
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