The regional town of Mallacoota made international headlines in late 2019 when the skies were turned crimson as the town was surrounded by a catastrophic bushfire. Just over a year after, Mallacoota Surf Life Saving Club has thanked those who provided support during this terrifying time.
In what was the first ever Easter patrol for Victoria’s easternmost club, Mallacoota SLSC held a celebration to recognise its own outstanding members and those from other organisations who all banded together as the community faced the blaze.
Mallacoota Junior Club Captain Airly Embleton-Mew remembers the tough times of the 2019-20 season but also the positive show of community spirit from the small but strong township.
“Some of our volunteers were unavailable during the bushfires as they sadly lost their homes but many of our members were able to put on their uniforms to show the community they were there to help,” Ms Embleton-Mew reflected.
“We wouldn’t have gotten through without community support from organisations like the Country Fire Association, the State Emergency Services, Ambulance Victoria and Victoria Police.
“The support from other surf life saving clubs was incredible too, we received donations from too many different clubs to name and they didn’t want or expect anything in return, it was just an amazing show of support.”
Two clubs that took it upon themselves to go above and beyond to help Mallacoota SLSC were Woolamai Beach and from New South Wales, Pambula SLSC, who assisted Mallacoota with everything from equipment to training, including Bronze classes.
“After the bushfires, we simply didn’t have the capacity to run a Bronze camp or take new volunteers through other certificates,” Ms Embleton-Mew said.
“We lost our caravan which housed most of the club equipment in it and Woolamai Beach fitted out the new one which enabled us to patrol.”
As a show of thanks to all the organisations that supported the club, Mallacoota SLSC invited the CFA, SES, Ambulance Victoria and Victoria Police to celebrate the club’s rebuild and to honour one of its former members, Darren Fellows at the Easter patrol.
Fellows, who passed away in late 2020 was involved in many voluntary emergency services roles and lives on at Mallacoota SLSC, who rechristened their inflatable rescue boat (IRB) “Dazza” in his honour.
“Darren had been involved in the club for a very long time and did a lot of invaluable work behind the scenes not just at the surf life saving club, but in a lot of the town’s emergency services organisations,” Ms Embleton-Mew said.
“People like Darren show how important our volunteers are, especially behind the scenes and how much communities rely on our emergency services in troubled times.”
With more visitors flocking to Mallacoota this Easter to give the town a welcome boost, the six lifesavers who patrolled were kept busy.
The local boardriders club, alongside Surfing Victoria also held its Easter competition at Mallacoota alongside the patrol, in which the Mallacoota SLSC team came in second place.
“It was great to have that element of celebration after what was a pretty trashy season in 2019-20,” Ms Embleton-Mew said.
“After struggling to get people to patrol for a little while after the fires, it was fantastic to have such a good turnout on Easter weekend.”