ACT News


Canberrans by the sea mix duty with pleasure

Most Canberrans don't need an excuse to hit the coast during summer holidays.

But a growing band of volunteers are mixing pleasure with business during their seaside jaunts.

About 70 Canberrans conduct beach patrols as lifesavers on the far south coast over the warmer months.

Sam Pettigrove is one of about 40 volunteer lifesavers at Broulee who come from Canberra. A further 20 are members at Batemans Bay Surf Life Saving Club and 12 are at Moruya.

Mr Pettigrove is patrol captain for the Canberra crew at Broulee and has been volunteering for seven years.

But life isn't a beach for the coastal guardians. Patrols, made up of volunteer beach attendants, look after the busiest days of the year, weekends and public holidays.


The unpaid helpers were called into action in 305 rescues across NSW on New Year's Day.

Mr Pettigrove said he would be involved in about two or three serious incidents each year.

Most patrol work was preventative, such a placing flags for swimmers and treating minor ailments.

Kambah may not seem like the logical place for a lifesaver to reside, but 23-year-old Mr Pettigrove drives to the coast at least once a month from November to April for a day's patrolling the picturesque beach.

But the accountant does not mind the travel. ''It gives me an excuse to come down the coast,'' Mr Pettigrove said.

''It's a lovely beach, safe, fairly friendly and gets some good surf, and it's a friendly, inclusive club.''

Fortunately, Canberra's beach safety gurus can do half their training without leaving the capital.

The Far South Coast Lifesaving Association's Andrew Edmunds said Bronze Medallion courses to qualify as a lifesaver are run twice a year in the territory.

Mr Edmunds, a Canberra-based defence employee, said potential lifesavers need to be able to pass a run, swim, run test before they can join the men and women in red and yellow.

''You don't have to be the strongest or fittest person in the world - you just get in and have a go,'' Mr Edmunds said. ''Surf clubs wouldn't be there without volunteers.''

While the volunteer role was a lot of responsibility and a commitment, Mr Edmunds said benefits included an active lifestyle, camaraderie and professional development.

''There's obviously training benefits - you do get nationally recognised qualifications, like first aid. Employers tend to value the credentials.''

For beach safety information and patrol locations, visit