September 5 - 11, 2021: Issue 509


Bernadette McKay: New President At Avalon Beach SLSC

The new Avalon Beach SLSC President is Bernadette McKay who joined the club and did her Bronze in 2009.

Avalon Beach SLSC are proud of the role they play in preventing drownings at Avalon Beach and invite the community to join them this summer.  You will learn some new skills, make some new friends, join our Club and join our lifestyle.  Bronze Medallion course starts Sunday 17 October.  Register your interest here.

Bernadette has been a patrolling member since 2010 and has regularly patrolled each season. Bernadette has obtained additional surf lifesaving awards including ARTC, First Aid, First Aid in Remote Situations, Mental Health First Aid, Spinal Management and Silver Medallion Beach Management and was the recipient of the Norm Cook Volunteer of the Year Award in 2017 - 2018.

Bernadette became Under 8’s Age Manager and Carnival Manager of her son’s group in 2011 and has taken her carnival kids to branch competitions and to Branch, State and Australian championships ever since. Bernadette was assistant trainer for this age group through their SRC and Bronze Medallion training. She was the nipper canteen manager in the 2016 and 2017 seasons and involved in board and water sports training of all junior age groups at Palm Beach on Saturday mornings to build skills and prepare nippers for competition.

Bernadette joined the Avalon Beach SLSC Board of Management as Director of Finance in the 2014 – 2015 season and has held the position through to the 2019 – 2020 season.  Her work brought together the nipper and senior club finance records into the one set of books under the One Club policy and she transitioned the Club to be a paperless finance / back office.

Bernadette introduced an operational and capital expenditure budgeting process into the Club to ensure sound financial management and moved the accounts process onto Xero and brought fixed assets, payroll, and an operational budget process onto the one software application.

Bernadette was responsible for reconciling the Surfguard membership reports against the Club’s finance records to ensure that all members are financial and insured through Capitation. Bernadette manages the Club’s commercial finance and process operations – bar, function, gym, and community room hire.

Bernadette is also the Club’s representative to speak with council on all financial related matters and has overseen the payment in full of the loan obligations arising from the Club’s rebuild.

This week a few insights from the new President herself.

Have you always been in Avalon Beach?

No; my uncle and aunt lived in the area so I’ve know it since I was little as we used to come and visit them.

My husband and I moved to Avalon in 2000. I joined Avalon Beach SLSC in 2009 when I registered my son for Nippers. I think a lot of people get involved in surf clubs through finding something great for their children to be a part of.

Was it a bit of a culture shock joining a surf club?

No, not really. I think in the beginning you don’t realise what you’re signing up for – you don’t see it as a big movement that you have become a part of. Every Australian knows what the yellow and red flags on a beach mean but this doesn’t provide an insight into what goes on behind the scenes of a surf club and all of what is involved in having those safe patrolled areas on a beach, symbolised by those flags.

Even when you first join a club I don’t think you know what happens – you can think ‘it’s for my kids and has nothing to do with me’ but I had said to my son ‘you have to do Nippers until you’re 12 so that I know when you want to go to the beach with your friends you know what to look out for and how to keep yourself safe.’

I thought if I was making him do it, I should too, and so did my Bronze Medallion and got involved in the club.

When you did get your Bronze?

I did it that first season, 2009, as an adult.

Was it a bit daunting, doing that as a grown-up?

A surf club can be a bit daunting; there are members who have grown up in the area and on the beach and have always been around water so it seems as though this is second nature for them, whereas if you’re coming in as a first-timer and see all these fit people your first response might be ‘I can’t do that’ but there’s always, always people encouraging you who say ‘yes, you can’ and are willing to teach you that you can. It’s just a matter of getting involved. 

You end up surprising yourself and as you go along, this allows you to understand the surf life saving movement more and more. You realise this is a whole new community you have become a part of – you’re meeting new friends, finding out you can do things you thought you couldn’t, and that by doing so you’re giving back to the community as well as those who visit our area during the Season.

I think I could safely say I’m the slowest swimmer in our surf club but I’m still enjoying having a go.

This year have taken on the role of President of Avalon Beach SLSC – what preceded this?

I did the role of finance officer for years so that gave me a good insight into how the club operates. The Presidents role is a bigger role because you’re also the ‘face of the club’ but I felt I had something I could contribute. This is a role that probably needs to change every 3 or 4 years so new ideas can be introduced and developed.

Do you have any new parts of the club you wish to develop?

Coming from a Nippers basis I really want to develop an emphasis on our youth groups. We already have some great programs at the club so a focus on those aged from 15 years through to their early 20’s is a priority for me. This is the age when we can lose some great members, across all clubs, so finding out what we can do to keep them engaged and part of the movement is important. We need to ensure that their voices are heard and that they feel like they have a place to belong. So that is one of my big focus areas.

The other is a renewed focus on all areas to ensure all members feel like they belong. We ask a lot in terms of ‘come and patrol’ so what we also need to do is look at what we can do that will foster their continuing commitment to the club. 

The 2021/2022 Season looks to impacted alike the 2020/2021 Season with lockdowns and limited members asked to be on the beach patrolling. Branch is encouraging members to get vaccinated and plans are in place to do everything safely – what challenges do you think you may have to deal with this Season?

Firstly we’ve already been through a Season with Covid, particularly across the northern beaches and in Avalon especially over the previous Christmas and New Years period, so we have already had a ‘test run’ of sorts with plans put in place then. 

That demonstrated that we have resilience and so any hurdle that we had then we overcame and we’ve moved forward. I think we’re probably well placed to adapt to whatever is thrown at us this Season. I have no doubt that this Season will be challenging but I don’t think it will vary too much from what we dealt with last year. It will be a matter of keeping up to date with all the health advice, that we follow all the protocols and that we work to keep everybody safe; our members, people visiting the beach, and our greater family network who are involved through members.

We live in a beautiful environment and with everybody across Sydney particularly restricted at present, it will be great if we can welcome them back to the beach during this coming Spring and Summer, and when they are here we will do our job just as we always do our job.

There will be some uncertainty and one week may not look like the next week but we will simply adapt as needed.

Are there any plans to run the Carols on the Beach this year?

We would like to say it would but it’s unlikely that it can take place in the form that it has in the past – 5000 people sitting on the green verge may not be feasible with the safety measures now required to protect people’s health. Once again the focus will be on maintaining the heath and safety of everybody and so we will be cautious at Avalon Beach SLSC.

Last year we cancelled our Ocean Swim, the Lion Island Challenge – there were a lot of in club events that were cancelled too or moved onto an online format.

I don’t want to say ‘no’ it won’t be happening as we haven’t made a decision on that yet; but we will be exercising a prudent approach again this Season to all events and how we operate over the Season.

How is the club making money to fund equipment repairs and purchase and training with all these fundraisers cancelled?

At present being in lockdown makes it a bit challenging. We derive income through our bar and function areas, but they are closed at present and like so many businesses that has hit us significantly. We’re fortunate that we have some great sponsors who have continued their support – McGrath, Johnson Bros and Brown Bros skip bins. All levels of government have provided funding to surf lifesaving so the combination of funds allows us to purchase and maintain our equipment and maintain our services.

At a club level we’ve prioritised our spending to core service and all other aspects are very prudently managed so that we can do what we need to do without impacting the delivery quality. We’re financially secure and those funds we do get are managed well – so providing what we can for our members is maintained through this practice.

What to you, personally, is the best part about being a member of Avalon Beach SLSC?

Avalon is very much a family club – we give people the opportunity to compete if they want to compete, but our ethos is more around making sure our Nippers groups are confident in the water and meeting new friends. The club is very much about being of the community and in the community. When you become a member you are surrounded by so many people who all have so varied skills and life experiences and backgrounds that when you ask for some advice or help you instantly have hundreds of pairs of hands working together. To have such a big team available to give that to you is amazing; everybody is prepared to help. Beyond that you are among a group of people who are interested in others and their welfare. When you join a surf club you are meeting people from the wider community who you would not meet in any other context or place and you are all sharing a common path – it’s pretty good to be a part of that. 

I see all these people on the beach but rarely see them during the winter months; so it’s a great reminder of how complex or multifaceted and also single minded a community can be. It’s surprising how different you can be from others who live in an area and then find, through surf club, you actually get to know them.

What are your favourite places in Pittwater and why?

The ocean, naturally, and probably just jumping off the back of Avalon pool – I love that rock ledge and being in the water there – it’s beautiful.

What is your ‘motto for life’ or a favourite phrase you try to live by?


Surf Life Saving Australia Urges Public To Volunteer For Individual And Community Benefit

September 2, 2021

“Our club, is your club”

Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) exists to save lives, create great Australians and build better communities and as the 2021/22 patrolling and summer season approaches, SLSA is encouraging members of the public across the country to join their local surf club.

SLSA, Australia’s largest volunteer movement with over 181,000 members across 315 clubs nationwide, is launching a recruitment drive ahead of the start of the new season highlighting the value and benefit of surf lifesaving clubs to the community, and also the individuals involved.

“It has never been more important or easier to join your local surf club,” said SLSA President John Baker ESM. “Surf clubs around the country are more than just a building or a service, they’re a home, a family, and we are asking all Australians to join us and make it ‘your club’ too. There is a place for everyone at the surf club and everyone is welcome.”

Whether it’s at the beach, through bushfires, floods or the COVID-19 pandemic, surf lifesavers and Surf Life Saving Clubs continue to be at the heart of communities offering emergency services, respite and support, all with a friendly sense of belonging and community spirit.

The Deloitte Access Economics 2020 report on ‘The Social and Economic Value of Surf Life Saving Australia’ highlighted that 90% of Surf Life Saving Club members said that being a part of their club assists them to positively contribute to their community while over 80% of members said that Surf Life Saving gave them a sense of purpose and belonging in their life.

Research conducted by Volunteering Australia from the first 12 months of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia (April 2020 to April 2021) found that those who were able to volunteer through the pandemic reported a significantly and substantially smaller decline in life satisfaction for those volunteers who did not stop volunteering, compared to those who stopped, or who never volunteered in the first place.

For those who continued volunteering, levels of psychological distress were also substantially lower than those who stopped volunteering, and those who had never volunteered.

“We know that volunteering gives people a purpose and it has been proven to increase physical and mental wellness in everyday life, especially through the challenges of the past 18 months due to COVID-19,” said Baker ESM.

“In light of this we are actively encouraging new and returning members to join our clubs, to find that sense of purpose and belonging whilst at the same time helping the wider community … our club is your club.”

Surf Clubs around the country are at the heart of local communities and offer a variety of roles both on and away from the beach or they can simply be a place to gather, create new friendships and support individual and community wellbeing.

For more information on how to join your local Surf Life Saving Club click here –