In July this year, Grace Lightfoot was awarded Lifeguard of the Year at the Victorian Awards of Excellence. Not only did she go on to win the national award at the Surf Life Saving Australia Awards of Excellence, but she was the first female to do so!
Here is her lifesaving story.
Jan Juc Surf Life Saving Club
How long have you been involved in Life Saving?
I began nippers in 2008 as an Under 11.
Why did you become involved in Life Saving?
One of my friends from school originally got me involved and I choose to join the summer surf carnival competition teams. Since then I have become more involved in the patrol and operations avenues of lifesaving.
What are some of your responsibilities at your club?
At club level, I have been an age group manager for nippers, bronze camp coordinator and am now helping to rollout a new patrol system working alongside our Lifesaving Services Manager.
At state level, I have been a lifeguard since 2014, becoming a team leader in 2016. This year, I had the opportunity to be a mentor on the Advanced Lifesaving Camp as well.
I was selected for the 2016 Building Leaders Scholarship, travelling to Sri Lanka to help upskill lifesavers and lifeguards.
I have also been an LSV comms operator for two years and I was elected the State Lifesaving Communications Officer, as well as being elected on the Life Saving Operations Council Executive as one of the Lifesaving Services Representatives in August 2019.
What do you enjoy most about lifesaving?
What I enjoy about lifesaving is the challenge. Everyone around me is constantly pushing me to continue to improve within myself, yet it’s an extremely supportive environment. Since moving into more of a senior role, I have really enjoyed helping to mentor and upskill my fellow lifesavers and lifeguards as well.
How do you encourage others to get involved with lifesaving and volunteering?
I would encourage others to get involved through joining one of their local patrols but not attending the same patrol every week (if possible). That way you’re exposing yourself to people you may otherwise not have come into contact with. This is a great way to be pointed towards state and club pathways and opportunities you may not otherwise have known about or lacked the ability to gain.
What is your greatest achievement in lifesaving so far?
My favourite moment in lifesaving was during the Building Leaders Scholarship. While on the Sri Lanka trip, I had the task of upskilling the patrol operation section, focussing mainly on preventative actions. During this training, we spoke about what the red and yellow flags represent and how important it is for people to swim between them. We encouraged the Sri Lankan lifesavers to try and encourage all of the members of the public to move in between the flags. Just this little action made me so proud as it shows how the skills and knowledge we have of water safety can really be overlooked and how important constant upskilling and education is. By the end of this rotation, we had every member of the public swimming in our patrol flags.
(All the swimmers in Sri Lanka between the flags)
When you’re not lifesaving, what keeps you busy?
I am currently studying a Bachelor of Art/Science majoring in criminology and psychology at Monash University in Melbourne.
You were recently awarded Lifeguard of the Year at the Victorian Awards of Excellence then went on to win the award nationally. You were also the first-ever female SLSA Lifeguard of the Year. What do these awards mean to you?
I was extremely grateful to accept the Victorian and Australian Lifeguard of the Year award this year. It was something I was not expecting but has meant a lot to me. I would not have been able to get where I am if it weren’t for the mentors and people who have put their trust in me and tapped me on the shoulder and provided me opportunities over the years.
Current volunteer roles:
- Jan Juc Patrol Mentor
- State Lifesaving Communications Officer
- Lifesaving Services Representative on the Lifesaving Operations Council Executive