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Byron Shire
March 1, 2021

Guarding your life

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I cannot believe that you have published those letters from Colin Thornton (11/4/12 and 30/4/12).

I chose to ignore the first letter as it was such rubbish and indeed Mr Thornton’s first paragraph indicated that he was trying to draw attention to himself.

‘I know that it is considered blasphemy (or even heresy) to say anything even slightly critical of our Byron Bay surf lifesavers, but at the risk of being hung, drawn, and quartered, I am going to, because I believe that they need to lift their game a bit.’

Mr Thornton obviously does not know the difference between paid lifeguards and volunteer lifesavers.

How many paid lifeguards do you think BSC can employ for $175,000? There are several places during the summer months where lifeguards are in attendance.

There are usually hundreds of people on any beach whose responsibility is to watch their friends, children and others and report to the lifesavers/lifeguards, when anyone appears to be in trouble. The lifesavers wear distinctive red and yellow caps for this very reason.

Their patrol can be at least six hours in the hot sun and glare. They are not going to see everything. Never swim alone, so that your companions can assist when necessary. Lifesavers are not robots. They are community-minded people who love the ocean and give freely of their time.

Volunteers, who train several times per week and fundraise and teach nippers should be respected, not criticised.

Sometimes the rips and ‘south to north drag/tow’ leave only a small section that can be patrolled safely. Usually with a rip either side of the flags.

I’m sorry that two young men had to lose their lives. I do walk the Wreck off-leash dog area quite frequently and see many unskilled people who have made a very poor choice to swim there. Several times I have thought people were in difficulty but ‘manned my post’, ready to dial 000 if needed.

I am frustrated by airline pilots who welcome people over their onboard radios to our beautiful beaches. Every international flight should warn people that whilst our beaches are beautiful, they are often very dangerous, unlike the Mediterranean, California, Thailand, etc.

As a child of a lifesaver, competitive swimmer and 58 years of surfing, I feel I have enough cred to respond to your letters.

Angry friends in the surf clubs may not wish to reply to your letters and bring further attention to the clubs.

By the way, I do not believe any beaches in this shire are safe beaches, except on those perfect blue-sky days, which happen about one day per year. Even a seemingly safe beach can change dramatically at change of tide.

Take responsibility for your own safety.

Heather Black

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  1. Thank you Heather for your letter. As a long time member of a local Surf Life Saving club, I am personally offended by Colin Thornton’s letters and glad you wrote this polite response.


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