It may have been the first day of winter, but the state’s lifesaving youth were out in force at Life Saving Victoria’s inaugural Youth Symposium in Port Melbourne, some travelling from as far away as Lakes Entrance.
“Over sixty dedicated young lifesaving members aged between 13-17 gave up their Saturdays to attend the full day event,” says Life Saving Victoria’s GM – People, Emma Atkins. “It was a unique opportunity for our youth members to have their say and hear from and network with the leaders and decision-makers from across lifesaving, sport and emergency services.”
The event was officially opened by LSV’s acting president Shane Dunne, who is also GM of Richmond FC and CEO of Aligned Leisure. The Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp sent a special video presentation to the youth members, encouraging their devotion to the emergency services.
NutriGrain Ironman Matt Bevilacqua was the first speaker of the day, inspiring the younger members with the story of his own lifesaving journey.
“Growing up as a nipper at the bottom of Tassie, I trained in the freezing cold and was terrible at the sport, but I just loved it,” said Matt. “There are those with natural talent, but I’m not one of those people.”
“I just kept turning up, having fun and was a sponge to the advice of all the people around me that I admired,” said Matt. “I believed in myself and I worked hard. Find what you love and then chase it, there’s no better outcome for your life,” said Matt.
Emerging lifesaving leaders Liam O’Callaghan (Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service), Maddy Green (RWC Lifeguard) and Volunteer of the Year Patrick Spinazzola were part of a panel session.
“Leadership is earnt by behaviour, not commanded,” said Patrick. “You can do anything in life, no matter how old you are.”
Maddy Green offered advice on being a female in lifesaving and encouraged members to back themselves during their journey.
“The lessons I’ve learnt in lifesaving have influenced my life so much,” said Maddy, who is in her third year of a degree in medicine. “I used to think, ‘Why would I get picked?’ for opportunities in life, but now I think, ‘Why wouldn’t I get picked?’ – I’m a different person to who I was when I started out as a nipper terrified of the waves.”
Former AFL player and founder of Love Me, Love You, Lance Picioane, opened up the discussion on mental health, saying: “In the darkest places, you can still find light. No matter what challenges you go through, they don’t define you. It will get better and you’re not alone.”
Over a networking lunch, there were visits from the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter and Drone Services, as well as the RWC (JetSki) Service and Metropolitan Fire Brigade. The day finished with a special innovation challenge, which saw youth members come up with ideas to change the game for lifesaving in Victoria.
The winning entry came from team LSVJ, made up of members from Chelsea Longbeach SLSC, Woolamai Beach SLSC, South Melbourne LSC, Mornington LSC and Brighton LSC. Their idea was to create a working group of junior members to identify and promote junior voices in lifesaving in Victoria. This idea will become a reality in time for the next lifesaving season.
Save a Life, made up of members from Mentone LSC, Surf Life Saving Lakes Entrance, Mordialloc LSC and Port Melbourne LSC were runners-up with an idea for rescue equipment at unpatrolled beaches. Their idea will be presented at the next lifesaving operations council meeting.
The club with the most youth participants was Altona Life Saving Club, who were awarded a club prize of a 4D racing mal, valued at $1,895. The day was captured by illustrator and graphic reporter Zahra Zainal (www.zahrazainal.com).
“We were thrilled by the attendance and high-level of participation from our youth members at our first Youth Symposium,” said Ms Atkins. “The ideas the members contributed told us we’re in very safe hands moving into the future of lifesaving in Victoria.”
The event was able to be run thanks to generous funding from Emergency Management Victoria.