Soldiers Beach Surf Life Saving Club

Tathra Bushfires Disaster – Letter from SLSNSW CEO

21 March 2018


Dear NSW Parliamentary Friend of Surf Life Saving,

On behalf of our 75, 000 members, we hope you are well and again thank you for your continual support to our great organisation.

I thought it both prudent and with pride, that I communicate to our Parliamentary Friends of Surf Life Saving the outstanding operational response and continual support, that our lifesavers have provided during the Tathra Bushfire Disaster.

At the peak of the bushfire emergency, SLSNSW was playing a key support role to all responding emergency services, and importantly the impacted communities. Operationally, lifesavers from various SLSCs were responding in IRBs and Jet skis along the Bega River to assist with emergency evacuations and Intel reconnaissance. We deployed Lifesaver Liaison Officers into the Emergency Operations Centre and Forward Command Posts to assist the NSW Police with intelligence and surf life saving asset deployment. Due to mobile phone tower networks being destroyed, we utilised our radio network and SLSNSW State Operations Centre at our Head Office in Belrose to transmit information to various emergency services on scene.

The Bermagui SLSC opened its doors as the Emergency Recovery Centre at the height of the fire to the evacuating community, and accommodated 320 community members, providing food, shelter, reassurance and registering them to allow NSW Government Recovery Teams to quickly process their needs.

As the community and infrastructure of Tathra has been devastatingly impacted, the Tathra SLSC has now been nominated as the official NSW Government Disaster Welfare Assistance Point, and the outreach centre for 8 staff of the Disaster Welfare Services Branch. Affected members of the community are now directed to attend Tathra SLSC to access services and information for housing assistance support, mental health advice, insurance advice and accessing of relief grants.

With over 70 homes destroyed in this horrendous fire, it was inevitable that this would impact our lifesavers residing in this community. Multiple lifesavers and lifeguards are confirmed to have lost their homes and assets, and we are currently trying to identify how many, and whom, so we can provide some targeted support if required. We are also currently developing plans on how to ensure we maintain beach patrols for the remainder of the season at Tathra, to reduce the burden on these local lifesavers whilst they recover from this terrible event.

As many of you may know, I have a very long history and extensive experience in NSW emergency services and managing some of NSW’s largest natural disaster responses, and I am both very proud, and impressed, with how our lifesavers both responded as an emergency service, in support of other emergency services, and their community during this time. It was seamless and as if they had done this plenty of times before. They should be highly congratulated. Again, thank you for your ongoing support to the volunteer lifesavers of Surf Life Saving NSW.

If you have any questions in relation to the above, please have no hesitation in contacting me direct via 02 9471 8000.

Sincerely yours