Victorian winners at Surf Life Saving Australia Awards of Excellence

Victorian Lifeguard Grace Lightfoot of Jan Juc SLSC has made history being named 2019 DHL Lifeguard of the Year, the first female lifeguard to take out the prestigious national award.

Surf lifesavers and dignitaries from around the country converged on the Gold Coast Convention & Exhibition Centre to celebrate the best and bravest at the 2019 National Awards of Excellence on Saturday 9 November 2019.

Lightfoot was among a host of Victorian lifesavers to be recognised, including fellow pioneering female lifesavers Dr Natalie Hood (Portsea) and Nancy Joseph (Fairhaven) who were inducted as SLSA Life Members. (See below for full list of Victorian winners).

Surf Life Saving Australia’s President Graham Ford AM said the awards were about taking time out to recognise the significant contribution individuals and clubs make in keeping our coastlines safe.

“We are proud that every year close to 180,000 members from around the country give up 1.3million hours to keep watch over our beaches. But on top of that, there are so many people who contribute to keep our surf clubs operating, training and educating our people and the public as well as coaching, officiating and so much more.

“The Awards of Excellence provides us the great opportunity to take time out and recognise those significant contributions by individuals and Clubs that make our organisation so unique.

“In addition to recognising the achievements of our surf lifesavers, lifeguards, clubs, trainers and assessors as well as our surf sports stars, we presented the prestigious meritorious awards. The meritorious awards highlight the rescues some of our members have performed,” Mr Ford said.


Grace joined the Australian Lifeguard Service in 2014 and has witnessed an enormous shift in the culture and professionalism particularly in the Surfcoast and Otway Area. In 2018/19 she has worked as a Team Leader mentoring and training Returning and Trainee Lifeguards. She represented ALS in the Women in Lifesaving video as part of the International Women’s Day Inter-agency Expo to showcase the supportive and inclusive culture of lifesaving. Educating and working alongside Sri Lankan Lifeguards was an opportunity for Grace to share her knowledge and skills as part of the 2018 Victorian Building Leaders Scholarship. An unexpected meeting with Prince Harry and Meghan while Grace was on an Event Lifeguard shift presented an excellent chance to promote ALS to the assembled media.

TRAINER OF THE YEAR: Jessica Sincock, Lorne SLSC, VIC

The commitment Jess has shown to training and developing the skills of others, including new trainers, nipper parents, and surf sport competitors over three years has been enormous. Jess was acknowledged for her contribution, receiving the Lorne SLSC “Best Clubman Award” in 2018/19. This season Jess played an integral role in setting up the club’s new Training and Assessment structure, resulting in Lorne SLSC completing the most training awards they have in many years. As Chief Instructor, Jess’s boisterous and infectious personality helped boost the culture of events she coordinated including the Bronze and Silver Camps, SRC and various summer courses. Jess was also a trainer for the first Lorne SLSC Indigenous Partnership Program with the Gunbalanya Community School, and assisted training sessions for the Lorne SLSC Community Engagement Leadership Program.

Meritorious Award: Lorne SLSC, Surf Coast Lifeguards, VIC
On the 14 of December 2018, three teenage males went swimming beside the rocks in front of Lorne SLSC. Lifeguards identified that the easterly swells, strong rips and rocks would prevent the swimmers returning safely to shore so they recruited volunteers to assist. Sam Ord paddled out on a rescue board and the Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) was launched by Ellen Porter (driver), Jess Sincock (crew) and other volunteers. The conditions prevented the IRB picking up anyone on the first approach, however, a rescue tube was thrown, and swimmers were able to hold onto the tube and rescue board. The IRB was navigated out further through the swell and attempted a second approach during a break in the surf. This time the three swimmers were brought into the IRB, however a large wave caught the rescue board whilst the last patient was holding it and washed into shore. The IRB took a third approach to pick up lifesaver Sam and return everyone to the beach. This rescue demonstrated excellent collaboration between the lifeguards and volunteers in extremely difficult circumstances.

Meritorious Award: Surf Coast RWC Service, VIC
On the 10 of March 2019, Victoria Police advised Life Saving Victoria Comms of two persons trapped on a rock platform at the base of Split Point. Surf Coast RWC Service deployed Fairhaven SLSC members Alex Buckley and Alex Schwarcz operating the water rescue crafts (RWCs) and Michael Henderson as rescue swimmer. The RWCs encountered large seas and strong winds. At Split Point, Michael swam approximately 70 metres to reach the patients and determined one patient could speak English but not swim, while the other patient had no English but some swimming ability. Michael swam to the RWCs to obtain personal flotation devices (PFDs) and returned to fit them. He then swam both patients, fully clothed, back to the RWCs. The stronger swimmer was secured on the rear of one RWC, while Michael accompanied the non-swimmer on the back of the other RWC. Both craft departed Split Point to safety at Sunnymeade Beach. The lifesavers expertly drove away from the rock faces and timing was key to exiting the break. Upon arrival at Sunnymeade Beach, a medical assessment was carried out, and no further medical attention needed.

Meritorious Award: Venus Bay SLSC, VIC
On New Year’s Day 2019, the surf conditions across the eight kilometre coastline at Venus Bay were dangerous with multiple rip currents. A roving patrol with lifesavers Taite Cumming (14yo), Alexander Duncan (15yo), and Sass Fagan, were dispatched to walk to “Beach 2”. At 1.30pm, lifesavers Lynda Randall and Craig Watson took the all-terrain vehicle (ATV) on mobile patrol to check Beaches 2 to 5. Minutes later, LSV Comms reported three swimmers in trouble at Beach 4. The ATV and walking patrol members joined forces and arrived to find two of the swimmers had been aided by other swimmers safely back to shore. The remaining swimmer was fatigued in a rip current bordered by two to three metre surf and 150m from shore. Craig sent Taite out on a rescue board and Alexander with a rescue tube while Sass was assigned to observe from high ground and report back. Lynda took over radio communication. Taite expertly used the rip current to navigate to the swimmer with Alexander close by to provide support. They positioned the exhausted swimmer onto the board and Taite then surfed the patient to shore. Paramedics and the Community Emergency Response Team provided medical care. The combination of an effective communication system and a response-ready team ensured a highly successful outcome.

Life Membership: Dr Natalie Hood, Portsea SLSC, VIC
During her 26 years of service to Portsea SLSC, Dr Natalie Hood proved to be an outstanding women’s role model in Surf Life Saving. She became Portsea SLSC’s first Female Senior Lifeguard in 1985, the first Victorian female Chief Lifeguard in 1988, and became a passionate advocate for including women’s events in national championships. Natalie was a fierce surf sports competitor at local, state, national and international carnivals including being selected to represent Australia in the K4 Kayak team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. She was named the first female National Surf Lifesaver of the Year. Significant positions held by Natalie over the last 15 years include SLSA National Honorary Medical Officer; member of the Australian Resuscitation Council; Medical Advisor and Australian representative on the International Life Saving Federation Medical Committee.

Life Membership: Nancy Joseph, Fairhaven SLSC, VIC
Joining Fairhaven SLSC in 1990, Nancy progressed from Bronze Medallion, Chief Instructor, Patrol and Club Captain to Committee positions, with effort being directed to lifesaving, women’s boat rowing, training and assessing, junior and Nipper development, all covering a noted treacherous stretch of beach. Her influence spread across such areas as Youth Development, Training and Assessment for LSV, Female Leadership, Diversity Development, and Parental Involvement in Bronze Medallion participation. Her distinguished and unique involvement in club, state and national engagement and development was recognised when she was awarded LSV Life Membership in 2017 and appointed as SLSA Chair of the Development Advisory Committee in 2018. Nancy is an example of how quietly powerful leaders influence organisations and make an indelible mark on their success.

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