BY JAN NARY
People come to volunteering through many different paths – for Matt (“Emu”) Robinson it was more of a lifestyle choice than sheer altruism. Matt, now president of the Point Lookout Surf Life Saving Club on Minjerribah, started with the club as a 13-year-old Nipper.
“The family had always lived in the Redlands near the Bay and surfing was just a part of life in summertime,” he says.
“Straddie was a regular holiday spot – we actually moved there for several years when I was a teenager – and the Point Lookout Club has always been my home base.”
The club, which was founded in 1947, now boasts around 500 members. In the summer weekends senior members are a reassuring presence on Minjerribah’s two most popular surfing beaches, Main Beach and Cylinder Beach. Matt says that the club has some unique features that put extra demands on its resources.
“We’re one of the few clubs that actually patrol two beaches, which puts a real demand on our resources, both volunteers and equipment,” he says.
“We run weekend patrols, from the September school holidays to the Monday of the May Day long weekend. That means a nine-hour commitment for eight to 12 alternating life savers on both beaches every Saturday and Sunday through summer. That’s a big ask!”
Matt says that surf lifesaving, like many volunteer-driven organisations, took a dive in membership during the worst of the COVID epidemic.
“Volunteer numbers seem to picking up again but despite probably having the highest number of volunteers in the 16 to 30-year-old age bracket we’re always needful of more recruits. Some find themselves with family and other life commitments that pull them away. Some lose the physical ability to do actual rescue work but we’re always quick to point out that there are ways of volunteering other than battling a rough surf.”
Because of its remoteness the Point Lookout club has a radio room facility that needs operators – and because it doesn’t have the financial support of a big club house with gambling facilities it needs people to throw themselves into the vital task of fundraising.
“Anyone who wants to get involved in volunteering with a spectacular view is more than welcome,” Matt says. “The majority of our members aren’t Island locals – they do a weekend commute from the mainland with the option of staying overnight in our clubhouse dormitory – dinner and breakfast provided, of course.”
And the cherry on the cake is getting to wear the red and yellow quartered cap, which is good for a smile of recognition and appreciation anywhere in Australia.