Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones paid tribute to Helensburgh-Stanwell Park SLSC and Windang SLSC at a presentation ceremony for the Surf Life Saving Rescue of the Month Awards at Parliament House today. 

The Parliamentary Friends of Surf Lifesaving Rescue of the Month award acknowledges the rescue deemed Australia’s most courageous that month.

Sharon Bird said that Illawarra lifesavers were fast gaining a reputation in Canberra as being some of the best in the country with a total of five awards going to local clubs in the past two years, including the two today.

“Our local lifesavers are well trained and have ensured that the Illawarra remained fatality free.  On behalf of our community I would like to congratulate Helensburgh-Stanwell Park SLSC and Windang on receiving the Rescue of the Month Awards,” Sharon Bird said.

“It was great to see 16 year old Lochleigh Thomson receive this award on behalf of himself, Edward White and Nicholas Lowe.  Rescues such as this place a great deal of responsibility on our lifesavers and the bravery these three members have shown is a credit to each of them, their trainers and families who support them.  The lifesavers today also emphasised the importance of teamwork in their rescues.

Stephen Jones said that that surf lifesavers did a great job in keeping our beaches safe, often in very difficult circumstances.

“Windang is a small but strong and active club, and I’m so proud of the work they do. When you hear stories such as the ones we heard today about these rescues it really hits home about the importance of the work of our surf lifesavers.

To date five Illawarra clubs have received the award with Helensburgh-Stanwell Park and Windang today;  Sandon Point SLSC in September 2014, Towradgi SLSC in January 2015 and Bulli SLSC in December, 2015.

November Rescue of the Month – Helensburgh-Stanwell Park SLSC

  • It was during the afternoon shift at around 2.30pm on Sunday 6 November that members of Patrol 3 noticed a paraglider in the water at the southern end of Stanwell Park Beach. Edward White and Nicholas Lowe immediately launched the IRB. As they got closer to the stranded man, they decided it was unsafe to attempt a rescue due to their close proximity to the rocks.

  • Edward and Nick returned to shore and climbed over the rocks with Lochleigh Thomson to see how they could go about rescuing the paraglider. With the swell surging up to six feet, the paraglider was clinging onto a rock in an effort to protect himself from the large waves.

  • As Nick was still wearing his lifejacket from the IRB and Lochleigh had a rescue tube, the pair decided to climb further around the rocks to reach the man. Thinking ahead, Nicholas grabbed some scissors from the first aid kit.

  • When they reached the paraglider, they saw he was tangled in ropes. In between the crashing waves, Nicholas cut through the ropes to slowly release him.

  • The man was exhausted and disoriented and after he got his breath back, Nicholas handed him his lifejacket and they both safely climbed across the rocks back to the beach.

  • The paraglider was treated by surf lifesavers and paramedics, however refused to be taken to hospital.

  • Quick thinking and courage by Nick and Lochleigh was the key to this rescue, with the pair risking their own safety to help someone else. The difficulty of the rescue and the testing conditions make the outcome even more impressive.

  • Nick Lowe says he had faith in his skills and knew he had a good team to back him up.

  • "The paraglider was in a very dangerous position, but I felt confident that I could trust in the rest of the patrol and that with their help we could retrieve the patient safely," said Nick Lowe.  

December Rescue of the Month – Windang SLSC

  • On Monday 26 of December 2016, Doug Hockey and Kaye Norris were on a roving patrol at the southern end of Windang beach when they detected six swimmers being carried out of Lake Illawarra mouth.

  • Launching immediate action, both members carried a rescue board down the rock wall, Doug then paddled out to the swimmers. Kaye radioed for further assistance before entering the water with a rescue tube.

  • Doug was able to secure four patients to his rescue board as they continued with the tide across the bar to the open sea. Kaye managed to keep the other two swimmers afloat by resting them on her rescue tube.

  • Patrol Captain Nicholas Di Genni who was co-ordinating the rescue, tasked Jayson Norris and Russell Trott to deploy the IRB. Navigating the rough conditions, the IRB undertook three separate runs to ensure all swimmers returned to shore safely.