The Lower North Coast region is fortunate to be serviced with a surf life saving club (SLSC) at six locations to safeguard beach visitors and to educate children in surf safety through the junior development program (nippers).
One of the six clubs, Taree-Old Bar SLSC, sees a partnership between the coastal centre, Old Bar, with Taree which is 20 kilometres inland.
This arrangement arises from a significant proportion of the club membership being composed of people from the up-country town.
This is not unique at non-metropolitan locations along the NSW coastline with other partner-towns surf club examples on the North Coast such as Alstonville being 25 kilometres inland of Lennox Head, Lismore-Ballina SLSC (30km), Casino-Evans SLSC (60km), Kempsey-Crescent Head SLSC (5 km) and Macksville-Scotts Head SLSC (17km).
Moving to the South Coast, however, sees a remarkable partnership between the nation's capital, Canberra, and the small coastal town of Broulee with a separation of 170 kilometres.
Canberrans are obsessed with the coast but, unfortunately, make up more than 80 per cent of surf rescues on the South Coast.
Acknowledging this in 2016, Canberra mum, Bethany Williams approached the Broulee Surfers SLSC to sponsor a partnership with Canberra.
Broulee, population of 1700, lies 300 kilometres south of Sydney and is midway between Batemans Bay (11,000 inhabitants) and Moruya (population 4000), each of which has its own SLSC.
According to the Broulee Surfers SLSC captain, Scott Kemmis from Canberra, the separation distance has not deterred the families of 140 Canberra children from partaking in nippers this season.
When this is combined with a further 120 children from the Broulee district, this tallies 260 youngsters being involved. Broulee is blessed with three beaches, each facing different directions, within 400 metres of the surf club building thus affording greater access to water activities during challenging weather conditions.
The Canberra nippers is based out of the Canberra Olympic Pool at Civic, where nippers have access to water to practise rescue and paddling skills, as well as sand for 'beach' sprints and flag races.
Twice a month, the Canberra nippers go en masse to Broulee to join with the local nippers in activities of fun, skills development and friendly competition.
Needless to say, this writer was impressed that a community and families, would make such an effort to give their kids the opportunity to experience the nippers' program.
The Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report 2021 and Surf Life Saving National Coastal Safety Report 2021 revealed that there were 294 drowning deaths last year across Australia's coastline, inland waterways and pools.
This was a 20 per cent increase over the 2020 figure. In an attempt to address these tragic figures, and through the commitment of inland communities combined with sponsorship of existing SLSCs, the partnered-towns surf club model could have further implications for our local region with Wingham-Crowdy Head, Gloucester-Black Head, Bulahdelah-Pacific Palms and Stroud-Hawks Nest all being possibilities in promoting water safety and awareness for the children within the MidCoast Council boundaries.
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