Central Coast 2020 Australia Day Ambassador Viki Campbell, Superintendent for the Central Coast Rural Fire Service District, with Mayor Lisa Matthews and a group of the Australia Day award winners including Terrigal Surf Life Saving Club's Mark Power, right.
Central Coast 2020 Australia Day Ambassador Viki Campbell, Superintendent for the Central Coast Rural Fire Service District, with Mayor Lisa Matthews and a group of the Australia Day award winners including Terrigal Surf Life Saving Club's Mark Power, right.

Half-century of service the mark of a lifesaving dynamo

TERRIGAL and lifesaving methods have both changed a lot over the past 52 years since Mark Power joined the surf lifesaving club.

The Central Coast's 2020 Volunteer of the Year said they were still using the belt, line and reel as their main rescue equipment when he earned his Bronze Medallion in 1968.

Mouth to mouth and CPR were not yet used, never mind defibrillators and administering oxygen.

Mark was just 19 when he came to the Coast for a banking job and found himself sharing a Gosford boarding house with a Terrigal Surf Life Saving Club captain, who quickly recruited him.

There were just four patrols in those days, limited to Sundays, before Saturday afternoons were added in and patrols increased to eight.

Now there are 12 patrols, but it is the numbers within those patrols that have really changed, with 20-30 members in each, giving the club a total of about 300 active members.

Many of them have joined as a result of their kids joining Nippers or having gone through that program themselves to become full patrol members.

"Probably your first rescue is the one you'll always remember," Mark said.

His came just three or four weeks after he earned his Bronze Medallion, when a child was swept out north of the club.

He remembers the line almost pulling him under a wave and struggling to keep the child's hand, but getting him safely to shore.

"To me, prevention is a lot better than having to rescue someone," he said.

After 52 years he well and truly knows where the rips are likely to be at Terrigal.

He can read the movements of the sand and water to move people away from dangers early, but remains always vigilant.

He said people often asked him why he still does patrols - last year racking up about 200 hours in a bid to get to know the latest members of every patrol.

"They say, 'You don't have to, you're already a life member'," he laughed.

But for Mark, although he knows he is getting close to the end of his patrol years, the questions are different.

First, there is the annual physical test to pass - running 200m, swimming 200m and running another 200m in less than eight minutes.

Then he considers whether he is a danger to himself, his fellow patrol members or beachgoers if he can no longer fully carry out his duties.

"If I answer yes to any of those questions, it will be time to stop," he said.

As well as enjoying himself and the people he works with, Mark said he had always seen being a surf lifesaver as his community service, and "I'd rather be on the beach than fighting fires".

The truth of that statement has been emphasised for him this season.

"What our firefighters have done this summer, putting their lives on the line, is incredible," he said.

"Australia is a place that survives on its volunteers … (its lifesavers, firefighters, and sporting coaches) … if we didn't have them, we wouldn't survive as a community." He said he had expected a firefighter to receive the volunteer award this year, but was happy that the Terrigal SLSC had gained recognition.

Having done just about every job at the club, including 2000-3000 hours of patrols, Mark said "there's a lot more to it than being down at the beach, putting a cap on your head and a couple of flags in the sand".

Award winners:

Other seniors honoured at this year's Australia Day ceremony were: Volunteer of the Year (Highly Commended) - Jenny Roberts for her work with Girl Guides Australia; Environmental Award - Cathy Gilmore (featured in the previous edition of Seniors News for her wildlife rescue services); Community Service and Activity - Deborah Warwick; and Business Connecting Communities - Sharyn Burgess, who created the Community and Business Women's Network.


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