I’m writing in regard to the tragic events at Port Campbell in Victoria on Easter Sunday which resulted in two of our own, father and son surf lifesavers Ross and Andy Powell from Port Campbell Surf Life Saving Club, losing their lives trying to save a tourist who had been washed out to sea. Another surf lifesaver, Phillip Younis, was critically injured during the rescue attempt.
All three answered the call to save a swimmer swept out to sea in treacherous surf.
All three thought not of the danger involved, but of the need to respond to save a life.
Like all of our 48,000 volunteer patrolling members from around Australia they responded on instinct, armed with their training and in the case of these three surf lifesavers, their great experience. All three were experienced in the environment into which they were going, but the sea as we all know can challenge and overcome even the best.
Surf Life Saving is a family, a community of people connected by a willingness to put our lives on the line for others and the tragic events that occurred at Port Campbell bear witness to this.
We all feel the loss of the Powell family along with members of the Port Campbell Surf Life Saving Club, the emergency services and local community. As John Donne wrote in his poem ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’…“none of us are an island unto ourselves and we are each diminished by the death of others.”
This rings true for us in these events. We all feel diminished by the deaths of Ross and Andy Powell yet are inspired by their selfless act of bravery, putting their lives on the line for another human being. Sadly, two of these three brave surf lifesavers paid the ultimate price. We also feel the pain of Phillip Younis who survived but lost two close mates, another experience unfortunately not uncommon to surf lifesavers.
We acknowledge and thank the amazing efforts of the emergency services and helicopter crew who flew into the dangerous conditions and the paramedic on the winch line who bravely rescued two men (Phillip our surf lifesaver and the tourist) diving into the treacherous waters and winching them to safety.
We also acknowledge and are thankful for the efforts of the team and staff from Life Saving Victoria who have provided amazing support for the families, the Port Campbell Surf Life Saving Club, emergency services and the local community in very difficult circumstances.
The whole Surf Life Saving family is reaching out in solidarity to the families of these brave men, to their fellow Port Campbell Surf Life Saving Club members and to the local community.
Supporting each other is essential to us as a Surf Life Saving movement and appreciating the efforts of those who put their lives at risk in the line of duty reminds us of the ever-present danger our members face when on patrol.
We live by the belief that everyone who goes to the beach should return home to friends and family. When two of our own members don’t return and another is critically injured, it reminds us just how important are the roles we perform at our surf lifesaving clubs, and at every level of the Surf Life Saving movement.
May these tragic events galvanise our efforts and recommit us to our mission of protecting and saving lives on our beaches, inspired by the selflessness and bravery of these three surf lifesavers.
We are one, as family.
We are one movement, one passion.
We are surf lifesavers.
Yours in surf lifesaving,
Graham Ford AM