Life Membership of Surf Life Saving Australia is a rare and prestigious award that nationally recognises long and outstanding contributions to surf lifesaving. This year, two of Victoria’s exceptional female members – Nancy Joseph from Fairhaven SLSC and Natalie Hood from Portsea SLSC – were awarded this honour. Both were the first from their respective clubs to be recognised with this award.
Here are their lifesaving stories.
|Fairhaven SLSC||Portsea SLSC|
How long have you been involved in lifesaving?
|29 years.||Since the age of 10. I joined the Mentone LSC as a Nipper/Junior in 1977 before women were allowed to become active members of SLSA. I joined the Portsea SLSC at the age of 16 and went on the club’s Bronze Camp, where I met my future husband Cameron Hunter. Lifesaving became a passion, and I’ve remained an active patrolling member ever since.|
Why did you become involved in lifesaving?
|Fairhaven has partnerships with two Melbourne-based schools. As part of a school program, I completed my bronze medallion with the club in December, patrolled that season and loved it so much I stayed! I loved the community service in providing a safe beach for the swimming public and being able to contribute to a greater good.||I grew up in Mentone and was the oldest of six children. With the Mentone LSC at the end of my street, I saw the lifesavers training and competing and wanted to be part of the fun. Initially, I was drawn to lifesaving for the competitive element and went to many Royal Life Saving Society carnivals, both beach and pool. Later, I started racing at state LSV carnivals and was selected in a Victorian Touring Team to New Zealand. I enjoyed the comradery of the carnival atmosphere and the highlight each year was going to Aussies with our Portsea team. I also enjoyed the patrolling, IRB driving and racing, and obtaining awards. Throughout my university years, I worked as a lifeguard at a number of beaches, including Lorne (where my family had a holiday house) Anglesea, and Portsea.|
What are some of your responsibilities at your club?
|I have held many roles at Fairhaven, including Chief Instructor, Club Captain, Vice-President, and Secretary. I have been involved in all aspects of the club including training and assessment, competition, I rowed in the first female boat crew at Fairhaven and competed for many years, rowing with lots of great women and sweeps.
I have also held roles at LSV including Director, Membership and Leadership Development. The Building Leaders Scholarship and Female Leadership Network are two of the programs we developed while I was in this role.
In my current role as Chair of the Development Advisory Committee, I have the amazing pleasure of spending a week with our finest and brightest lifesavers from all over Australia at the National Leadership College. The program and experience have a profound impact and make a difference to all those who attend.
|I am currently most actively involved with the growth and development of the Youth Competition Team, but with three teenage children always attending the club’s camps and upskill programs, I take an interest in youth engagement, as well as governance issues around areas such as competition, team selection and club rules and policies. I am still patrolling at Portsea and recently have jumped back into the IRB to enjoy a few thrills in the surf – the sort of excitement that drew me to Portsea all those years ago.|
What do you enjoy most about lifesaving?
|The friendships, the people, the difference I have made to so many people’s lives. Winston Churchill’s quote sums it up for me “You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give”. I have given a lot to surf lifesaving, however, it has given me back so much more. Being part of this wonderful iconic organisation and having the opportunity to meet and mentor so many young people from all over Australia inspires me so much every year.||What I enjoy most about lifesaving is the sense of community and engagement. I am rewarded by seeing the young adults of our organisation develop skills in so many life areas. I enjoy watching teams working together, both in the competitive arena and in the club environment. I’m enjoying mentoring younger members to become the new leaders in my club as they take on the roles and responsibilities that I enjoyed so much myself when I was their age.|
How do you encourage others to get involved with lifesaving and volunteering?
|For me, it’s about encouraging people to stay involved regardless of how big or small the contribution. There are opportunities for everyone at any stage of your life; you don’t always have to be an active patrol member on the beach. The generations of women before us taught us this.
|As with any organisation, especially one so reliant on the volunteer activities, it is important to assign people achievable tasks, that you know fall within their skill set, and then praise them for their efforts. People like to be thanked and like to be recognised for their efforts, in club newsletters, at presentation nights and in reports. Our Portsea competition team is always welcoming of new members and values the importance of keeping members engaged in sport by ensuring that training and competition are social and fun, as competitors strive for their best performance. This is not just for the athletes, but for the parents, officials and supporters as well.|
What is your greatest achievement in lifesaving so far?
|Empowering others to be the best they can be. I have been the first female in all my roles at Fairhaven, LSV and SLSA. I have trodden the path for the wonderful women behind me, and I always make sure a female takes my role when I vacate.
I am grateful for all the women who have trodden the path, and I will continue to tread the path for the next generations. I want all females to have the same opportunities as males in lifesaving. Gender equality is everyone’s responsibility, and we all must have the courage to challenge poor behaviour when we see it – “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.”
|At the 1989 Australian Championships I was named the SLSA Lifesaver of the Year, the first Victorian and first female to receive the award. For me, this was a very proud moment.
I started my lifesaving career in the Royal Life Saving Society, an organisation where women were offered the same opportunities as the male members. For me, it was a ‘no brainer’ that women should be as equally involved in surf lifesaving, and I enjoyed being one of the early pioneer women in the Surf Life Saving movement. Portsea was a club where female membership grew quickly, and there were already a number of female role models to mentor me when I joined the club in 1983. I’ve enjoyed being part of that continued growth, not just in my own club but with the whole lifesaving movement.
When you’re not lifesaving, what keeps you busy?
|Away from Surf Life Saving, I am the Section Manager for the Land Use Planning, Communications and Stakeholder Engagement team at Jacobs Consulting. I believe that engaging meaningfully with stakeholders leads to a greater understanding of perceptions and concerns and enables the development of workable solutions and collaborative relationships on often complex projects.
I am passionate about sharing my knowledge and experiences to teach and empower others.
|My day job is working as a paediatric emergency physician at Monash Children’s Hospital. With three sporty teenagers, I spend a lot of time as an unpaid Uber driver going to and from swimming pools, athletic tracks and basketball stadiums. My days off work are spent squeezing in the odd paddle or walking the dog (Roxy, a golden retriever).|
You have recently been award Life Membership of Surf Life Saving Australia – tell us a little about what this means to you.
|I am overwhelmingly humbled, grateful and honoured to receive this award and to be recognised with the honour of Life Membership.
Owning our own story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do. I have worked hard for a long time in this organisation to make it better for all those who come behind me. It hasn’t been easy, I have faced many hurdles, however, I have never lost sight of the big picture and why I do what I do and continue to do to make this organisation a great inclusive organisation. It’s not about winning awards, it’s not about all the times someone has said ‘no you can’t do that’, it’s about all the times I have been brave and stood up for what I believe in … to make a difference in the lives of people I interact with and to leave this world a better place … you can’t be what you can’t see.
I want my daughter to remember me as someone who is kind, someone who is not afraid to do what she believes in, and as someone who helped others to exceed their potential.
|I was very emotional when I received the phone call from the President of Surf Life Saving Australia. I didn’t know that I’d been nominated, so it came as a surprise. The timing of the award, exactly 30 years after my 1989 Lifesaver of the Year award marks three decades of involvement in an organisation that has been such a big part of my life.
Moving from my lifesaving roles on the beach and in the sporting arena to the administration portfolios has kept me challenged and developing personally. I have been in the National Medical Advisory role for the last 15 years, and this has been very rewarding. I’ve enjoyed meeting new people both in Australia and in the international lifesaving, resuscitation and first aid communities, travelling to conferences and the responsibilities for policy writing and promotion of resuscitation and first aid in the aquatic environment.
I hope that I can continue to contribute to an association that has given so much to me and my family.
Current volunteer roles:
|· Chair Development Advisory Committee, SLSA
· Chair Volunteer of the Year Committee, SLSA
· Member Protection Officer, Fairhaven SLSC
· Age Manager, Fairhaven SLSC
|· Member of the SLSA Medical Advisory Group
· Member of the ILCOR International First Aid Taskforce
· LSV Aquatic Sports Council Executive
· Administrator of the Portsea SLSC Youth/Senior Competition Team
Previous volunteer roles:
|I have been fortunate to have held many roles in this organisation at Fairhaven, LSV and SLSA. I have worked with amazing people across all aspects of the organisation including, leadership development, lifesaving, sport, training and assessment and administration at all levels.||· Australian Resuscitation Council SLSA Representative
· International Life Saving Federation Medical Committee SLSA Representative
· Various roles on the Portsea SLSC Committee
Images of Nancy Joseph:
Images of Natalie Hood: