Summer full of smiles and laughter as Life Saving Victoria champions inclusion and diversity

“Everyone is welcome” was the catchcry of the day for a strong contingent of Life Saving Victoria representatives who participated in the Midsumma Pride March in early February.

With the sun out and the rainbow flag flying high, about 30 lifesaving volunteers and LSV staff came together for a day of celebration on Sunday 2 February, joining the Emergency Management Commissioner, Andrew Crisp and other emergency services from the EMV Pride Network in the annual march down Fitzroy St in St Kilda.

LSV president Paul James, who attended this year’s march along with LSV’s Chief Executive Dr Nigel Taylor, as well as Director Angela Malan, and a strong contingent of LSV volunteer members and staff, said a good day was had by all.

With LSV’s Rescue Vehicle towing St Kilda LSC’s rainbow boat, cheers and thank yous rang out down Fitzroy St as the yellow and red passed the many spectators aligning the street.

“It was a great turnout and a fantastic show of support for our LGBTIQA+ colleagues in lifesaving, the emergency services and community,” Mr James said.

“It was also a demonstration of LSV’s commitment to being a welcoming and diverse organisation. We’re about inclusivity, it’s important.”

Mr James said there had been consistent growth in the number of attendees representing LSV and the movement, supporting the march each year – with over double the number this year compared to last.

“It’s the third year LSV has taken part in the march. Each year our numbers are growing, and I hope more and more people join us next year,” Mr James said.

“It was a really good day, it’s a lot of fun but it’s really about being supportive and championing inclusion too.

“Prior to setting off, we had a member of our lifesaving community share with the group just how much  it meant to him to have the lifesaving community come out to march with him this year.

“It was very moving – that’s why it’s so important to be yourself, to come along and to know you’re very welcome in our organisation and in the emergency services. LSV needs diversity and all the benefits it brings.”

LSV’s General Manager People, Emma Atkins, said the lifesaving community was going from strength to strength when it came to an increased focus on inclusion and diversity.

“LSV’s work with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, especially through our multicultural projects team and education programs in recent years, has helped promote our commitment to inclusivity,” she said.

“We’ve also just welcomed Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) announcement yesterday that it has become the newest member of the Australian Pride in Sport program, committing to further develop and enhance the inclusion of people with diverse sexualities and genders across the Lifesaving movement.

“Pride in Sport is a national not-for-profit program that assists sporting organisations and clubs with the inclusion of LGBTI employees, players, volunteers and spectators, and we commend the message this sends to lifesaving members across the country that lifesaving is an inclusive, progressive and welcoming culture for the LGBTQ+ community.”

“There have been many other great opportunities recently that have seen LSV championing and celebrating the importance of diversity in the community and in our growing membership base.

“We are really excited about the many new and expanding initiatives celebrating and focusing on gender, disability, pride and older adults, which complements our great work with people in CALD communities.”

The annual Starfish Nippers Carnival was another highlight on the inclusion calendar, with Hampton LSC hosting for the second year in a row in late January.

Hampton LSC’s Starfish Nippers coordinator Kerrie Curtis said four clubs were involved in this year’s carnival, which has a focus on all-abilities inclusion. More than 40 participants with diverse abilities took part in a range of beach and water activities including flags, tube rescues, sprints and obstacle courses.

Ms Curtis said it was great to see other clubs involved again this year and a highlight had been the awarding of certificates of participation – especially the medals – to participants at the conclusion of the carnival.

“I had parents’ text me later to say my child hasn’t taken them off, they slept in it and went to school in it the next day,” she said.

“This was huge for them.”

Overall, the day had been one in which everyone had high levels of engagement and fun, some incredible displays of skills and one that really showcased how inclusive lifesaving can be.

“There were giggles, there was laughter – we had a ball.”

Ms Atkins said the Starfish Nippers Carnival had quickly become one of the highlights on LSV’s calendar.

“The program has been club driven and the volunteers do an amazing job of delivering the program which has such a positive impact on not only participants but their families and the many mentors and volunteers involved in making it happen.

“We are in awe of our volunteers, the participants and their families, who put on such a powerful and enjoyable program. The carnival is one of my favourite events, it’s hard not to smile and want to get involved, it’s such a privilege to be a part of the day.”

The Starfish Nipper program is a lifesaving skills program designed for children and young adults with a disability who are six years and older.

The program aims to give young people with disabilities beach safety and water awareness skills.

Originally started by volunteers at Anglesea SLSC, the Starfish Nipper program is now being run at lifesaving clubs around Australia.

The program caters for students with numerous disabilities including Autism, Asperger’s and Down Syndrome.

Run entirely by volunteers at a number of Life Saving Clubs around Australia, the program ensures that students with disabilities and their parents can be involved with surf skills and lifesaving like their siblings, friends and others on the beach.

The Starfish Nippers program is run at nine clubs across Victoria.

For more information and locations, check out the Starfish Nippers Australia website.

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