Volunteer profile: Woolamai Beach SLSC trailblazing women recognised

Women have long played a key role in the Victorian lifesaving movement.

Since the inception of the Royal Life Saving Society Australia (RLSSA) Victorian branch in 1904 women activity participated in all aspect of lifesaving, and although they played key roles women started patrolling some decades later in Surf Life Saving Victoria’s (SLSV’s) clubs in 1980.

When this opportunity was opened to all it was at Phillip Island’s Woolamai Beach Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) that a group of women from Mentone Life Saving Club (LSC) became the first Victorian women to hold SLSV bronze medallions.

Since then, Woolamai Beach SLSC has strived for gender diversity, balance and inclusivity across its membership and is credited with holding Victoria’s first known Pink Patrol.

Pink Patrol celebrates the contribution of women past and present, acknowledging the operational capabilities of women in lifesaving through a designated patrol lead by women, aiming to create positive role models to inspire and empower future generations of women and girls in lifesaving.

For their work in creating Pink Patrol, which in 2022 became a statewide initiative for the first time, Life Saving Victoria (LSV) recognised Woolamai Beach SLSC members with the Trailblazer Award at its International Women’s Day breakfast on Thursday 3 March.

Woolamai Beach SLSC membership protection officer Annie Colman accepted the Trailblazers Award from LSV president Paul James on behalf of the club.

Annie Colman and Emma Atkins stand smiling to the camera holding a certificate

“I am incredibly humbled to receive the Trailblazers Award on behalf of our club for the enormous efforts of members in working together to create an inclusive space for people of all genders, abilities, sexual orientation and backgrounds,” Ms Colman said.

“To be a part of a club like Woolamai Beach that truly recognises and values the importance of gender diversity, balance and inclusivity both within the club and the wider Phillip Island community makes me so proud.

“I would like to recognise the efforts of all our members, especially Michelle Murphy and Georgie Wettenhall who were among the group that put on the first Pink Patrol. To see how far Pink Patrol has come since its inception in 2011, to have now grown into a statewide initiative and be held at 40 lifesaving clubs and aquatic facilities across the state is amazing. I can’t wait to see it continue to grow thanks to the support of LSV.

“This award is for everyone at Woolamai Beach SLSC, whose efforts big and small mean that all our members feel safe to bring their whole selves to patrol and other club events. We started Pink Patrol to inspire and empower future generations of women in lifesaving and I hope this is something that we continue to nurture through this initiative,” she said.

The initiative was supported by many of our male champions of change, including Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp APM, who spoke with the group about his experiences supporting women to break the bias. Woolamai Beach SLSC was among more than 48 women recognised for their achievements as outstanding women in lifesaving, for being emerging leaders (aged 16-30) and senior leaders (aged 30-plus) in this space.

Congratulations to all our nominees, the amazing women in lifesaving, and the wider aquatic industry for their work as volunteers, instructors, swim teachers, facility managers, and working to break the bias.

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