Bondi View

Our fallen lifesavers: lest we forget

Tony Waller (right) and his son Tom at the Fallen Lifesavers memorial in Coogee. Photo: Chris Peken

A new memorial will be unveiled at Coogee Beach later this month to commemorate the Australian surf lifesavers who served as soldiers in international conflicts since World War I.

The ‘Fallen Lifesavers’ memorial will feature a statue of a digger and a lifesaver by Australian sculptor Alan Somerville with a large sandstone and grass terraced seating area facing Coogee beach.

With 2014 marking one hundred years since the outbreak of the war, Coogee MP Bruce Notley-Smith said surf lifesaving was part of the “social fabric” of Coogee and the Fallen Lifesavers memorial will serve as a national installation recognising those who sacrificed their lives for Australia.

“I can’t think of a better place than the electorate of Coogee to have this memorial,” he said.

“Not only is it home to the oldest surf clubs in Australia, but of course, further to the west of the Coogee electorate, is where the Anzacs corralled before they went off overseas.

“The culture of surf lifesaving and the clubs – the red and yellow colours on the beach every weekend – it’s so ingrained in the fabric of the life of Coogee.”

The Coogee Surf Lifesaving Club was founded in 1907 and club governor Tony Waller said Australia’s war veterans found great solace in the clubhouses and the values they instilled.

“As a consequence of the mateship, the camaraderie, [and] the larrikinism that was surf lifesaving in those early years [after WWI], the Coogee Surf Lifesaving Club became a [symbol] for the lifesavers who had served their community and their country,” he said.

“I think that connection, that dedication to the community, is still there”.

Mr Notley-Smith said the memorial will act as a tribute to the heroism of volunteers who protected their communities and made invaluable contributions to society.

“These are people who not only served in a volunteer capacity looking after all the locals and visitors alike on the beaches but, year after year, saving their lives and having one of the most enviable safety records of beaches around the world…and then went off to war to serve their country in another capacity and paid the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.

Waverley councillor Paula Masselos called the memorial “a great initiative” with the surf lifesavers being an internationally respected icon.

“I think our volunteer life savers do an excellent job and it’s really good that we have an opportunity to actually acknowledge that people who gave their life in war, also gave their time to serve the community twice over,” she told the Bondi View.

A remembrance wall listing the names of all fallen lifesavers is expected to be installed in April next year to coincide with the ANZAC centenary.

The official opening of the Fallen Lifesavers memorial is open to the public. It will be held on Sunday April 27 at 10am at the South Coogee Beach promenade.

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