Wye River’s mother-daughter dream team

Debra Hocking and Miranda Bordignon enjoying a walk together at Wye River beach.

Wye River Surf Life Saving Club has reaped the rewards of a dedicated and dynamic mother-daughter duo, with mum Debra Hocking and daughter Miranda Bordignon at the heart of the club.

Debra became involved with Wye River SLSC in Miranda’s childhood, and due to her value of water safety education and community service, had all four of her children attend Nippers.

 

She joined the committee in 1999, bringing her expertise in social work, community engagement and not-for-profit leadership to embark on a new era at Wye River.

She went on the become Wye River SLSC’s first female president, serving six years in the role and developing the club’s future female leaders, including her daughter.

“When I joined the committee, it was mostly made up of men and with the club being located in the middle of the Wye River caravan park this is where most of the leadership committee came from,” Debra said.

“I was one of the first people to join the committee who wasn’t involved with the caravan park, so I feel like I brought a new perspective on ways the club could become involved with the wider community and other local emergency service groups.”

With a little encouragement, Miranda soon followed her mother’s lead in becoming more involved behind the scenes at Wye River.

“When I finished Nippers, mum really encouraged me to do my Bronze Medallion. I’m not sure if I would have done it without her encouragement but I’m really glad she pushed me,” Miranda said.

“After a few years of patrolling I could see mum getting more involved in the committee and I decided it was something I’d quite like to get involved with also. I’m a lawyer, so I had some valuable skills to bring to the work mum was doing there so I joined as secretary,” Miranda said.

To make becoming secretary of Wye River SLSC even more special, the predecessor who handed the reins over to Miranda was her mother, Debra.

The next time Miranda would step in to fill her mother’s shoes was as the club faced possibly its biggest challenge ever, the Christmas 2015 bushfire that hit the Otways town.

With Debra enjoying an overseas trip, Miranda became acting president to lead the club into becoming a source of support for the community.

“It was a very raw and emotional time at that point,” Miranda reflected.

“I was escorted into the town by the Country Fire Authority within 24 hours of the fire. It felt good to know the club was doing something constructive to help the community on the ground rather than just observing from a distance as the tragedy unfolded.

“With mum being overseas she felt quite removed from the situation, but it helped her to know that the club was there doing whatever we could to assist the town’s recovery from the beginning.”

Miranda’s role expanded to be an Emergency Management Victoria spokesperson, and upon returning from overseas, Debra became integral to the local recovery program, too.

“Although the bushfire was a terrible tragedy, it was a realisation for us that the club is a big asset for the town that can be called upon to provide that level of support,” said Debra.

Teaming up on the committee at Wye River helped Debra and Miranda to develop a new aspect to their mother/daughter bond.

“I wouldn’t normally have that kind of interaction with mum because our jobs are completely different, so being on the committee together has allowed us to collaborate and discuss things we wouldn’t normally work on together,” Miranda said.

“Our activities at the club aren’t work but they’re not typical family stuff either. I definitely felt more comfortable to give it a go because of mum.”

As well as working through the challenges of the bushfire, other projects Debra and Miranda have collaborated on include Wye River SLSC’s 60th anniversary celebration, getting the club’s stand up comedy nights and Sunset Bar up and running and ensuring a balance of fundraising, social activities and club operations.

“Wye River SLSC is something we are both really passionate about and committed to as a community and emergency support service,” Debra said.

“It’s a great bonding activity to work with Miranda and I’m really proud of what she has brought to the club.”

Miranda is grateful for Debra’s encouragement to join the committee and continue the family’s contribution to Wye River SLSC.

“Mum strongly encourages you to give things a go when you’re not sure, and I don’t think I would be as confident and autonomous as I am without her influence,” she said.

“Mum’s leadership style inspires me in how inclusive she is and how careful she is to listen to everyone’s opinions and not dismiss anybody’s ideas and make sure their views will be heard and their ideas discussed.”

This admiration and respect goes both ways, with Debra valuing Miranda’s organisation skills and clear thinking.

“I have always been amazed by Miranda and her skills, she’s an incredible person,” Debra said.

“I have learned a lot from her about the perspective of active members and the need to be organised in the way I approach things. Miranda is also a great mentor of other young women in the club and is quick to acknowledge achievements and efforts by others. She is also adept at using social media to make sure the club remains visible to the broader community.”

“Wye River is a really strong club for women with some great female leaders and now there are quite a few mother/daughter dynasties working behind the scenes.”

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