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Marine Rescue: A Life Raft for the Sapphire Coast Community

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At Fortem, we know that connection and helping others are at the core of wellbeing – for individuals, and for communities. Marine Rescue NSW volunteers are an integral part of the Sapphire Coast community – connecting with locals and keeping them safe – and were vital partners in keeping residents safe through the Black Summer Bushfires.

A multitude of volunteers from Marine Rescue Bermagui, Eden, and Merimbula stepped up to help the Rural Fire Service as radio controllers, and became natural leaders in the evacuation centres.

“The team felt empowered applying their skills to the bushfire emergency”

says Sonia Teston, Unit Commander of Marine Rescue Merimbula.

When the fires first impacted Cobargo, and Bermagui was under threat, MR Bermagui, Eden and Merimbula stepped in at the Surf Lifesaving Clubs, RSLs and local evacuation centres doing whatever was needed to support those who had to flee their homes – many of whom had lost part or all of their properties. One member from MR Bermagui, a chef, continued to support locals with meals and catering, working tirelessly through January sorting donated food – planning and preparing meals which he served to evacuees with words of kindness and encouragement. 

Lockdowns saw the community craving connection more than ever, and after a summer in which south coast units provided significant support to local fire crews and evacuation centres, people were looking to give back. The Merimbula base currently has 70 members, and Bermagui has 35.

“Our members are highly trained and highly skilled, dedicated volunteers”

says Sonia, speaking proudly of their passion for the job and the community.

“We are all volunteers, and give our time freely to help save lives at sea adds Caron Parfitt, Bermagui UC.
We do this by monitoring and responding to calls for help – tasking our rescue vessel to respond to boaters in need”.

Volunteers are provided with full training, and can also assist in non-operational roles such as fundraising and administration.

The MR Merimbula annual raffle recommenced this month, with tickets being sold at various locations, including the Rotary Pambula, Merimbula RSL, Merimbula and Candelo markets, and Tura Beach Shopping centre.

“Fundraising is a great way to raise our local profile, meet potential new members, and to educate boaters about our waterways

says Sonia. Stop for a chat, a ticket, or to meet your new team.

This year, the Bermagui unit received the Volunteer Team of the Year award for the South Coast from the Centre for Volunteering. As a result, they are finalists in the State Volunteer Team of the Year Awards – to be announced this week.

“This was a very special award for us, as we were nominated by a member of the public unbeknownst to the unit. We have a strong team culture so it’s great that the entire team has been recognised.”

says Caron.

Marine Rescue NSW are integral to the wellbeing of the south coast community, driven by connection and altruism which lie at the core of individual wellbeing. Catch your local members at the Merimbula, Pambula, and Candelo markets, as well as the Merimbula RSL and Bermagui Fisherman’s Wharf.

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