Cuts to Professional Lifeguards put lives at risk

By Bruce Hopkins*

Australia has a well-earned reputation as nation where locals and visitors alike can enjoy the pleasures of a beach lifestyle in safety thanks to the supervision of skilled, experienced and professional lifeguards.

But if you think that the kind high-calibre professional lifeguarding services that are now being provided by many local governments are a given and here to stay, think again.

There is much to be deeply concerned about thanks to a misguided push for changes to how beach lifeguarding duties are performed, managed and sourced by councils.
At the heart of the matter is whether local governments which have beaches should retain their own highly skilled professional lifeguarding services – created over decades in the interests of public safety and education – or contract these out to commercial organisations seeking to make a profit.
A recent article in Government NewsLifesavers battle rival councils for beach patrol” serves as a case in point.
I’ve been a professional Lifeguard for 21 years and, with other members of the community, am strongly committed to ensuring that our beaches remain as safe and as accessible as we can make them. I have also witnessed the evolution of beach safety as an integral part of our cultural fabric from the beginning. I was a part of the very first nippers group at Bronte beach in 1974; my young adult life was consumed around competing for Bronte Surf Club in the Australian Titles and the World Titles with much success, winning gold and silver in many races. I loved the surf club culture and I still do at the ‘grass-roots’ level.
But what has been causing me many sleepless nights is how Surf Live Saving Australia has evolved into business powerhouse. So much has changed – and for the worse.

The coverage by Government News of Surf Live Saving NSW (SLS NSW) latest council contract mentions that under the new deal, the local governments will save around $400,000 a year by contracting out services to Australian Lifeguard Service (ALS).
It might look good at first, but councils need to ask themselves what are the risks below the surface.
Will such savings be achieved by cutting back the hours of Lifeguards and having them work only 8 months of a year?
And will ALS be using charity-funded Surf Clubs equipment, thus gaining a significant advantage in winning every tender?
It’s worth considering that the Surf Clubs are at least partly funded by the Australian public for essentially charitable activities rather than commercial ones.
As such, the real question of a conflict of interest arises from the commercial use of assets and equipment bought with the proceeds of community fundraising.
Another claim made by SLS NSW through Government News is that 40 lifesavers will be employed under the ‘new deal.’
There are a couple of things wrong with this idea and its assertion.
Firstly, [volunteer-sourced] lifesavers are nowhere near the standard and skill of council Lifeguards, and that’s a fact.
I challenge the lifesavers to do the council Lifeguard physical test that all Lifeguards must pass in order to work the beach.  I believe most wouldn’t pass; a [possible] result of their lack of skill [is that]  people may drown!
Secondly, to extract savings in the order of $400,000 per year it has to be asked whether SLS NSW will have to pay lifesavers the bare minimum wage to deliver their promise of savings to councils.
It also needs to be asked, who do they think will apply for jobs on a minimum wage and how will these people afford to live on it?

There’s a vast difference between young kids pulled from their surf club who have only ever volunteered their time for four hours once a month per summer to help assist the professional Lifeguards – Lifeguards who are on the beach 365 days a year!
Sunshine Coast was unfortunately contracted out to the ALS last year and to keep the best Lifeguards on the Sunshine Coast beaches, allegedly the Lifeguards were pressured into signing over to the ‘new deal’ under the contract of the ALS by SLSA by telling them if they don’t sign over to the ‘new deal’ Surf Life Saving Australia won’t allow them to compete in the Australian Titles and World Titles for their club!
This is their livelihood, they make money from competing, and this singlehandedly was enough to make them sign over to the new contract under the new conditions of the ALS – which by end of next year will put them on minimum wages. This is wrong on many levels.
And who does SLSA answer to? Essentially no-one, as the SLSA runs their own show.
I can’t express enough the disappointment in this so-called iconic association that I have been a part of for 40yrs that these poor Lifeguards have been pressured into such a decision.
Look at it this way. While the volunteer fire fighters do a wonderful job when there is bushfire they don’t have the skill set to put a fire out in a burning building or house. This is because the government funded fire fighters work 7 days a week and are trained to a much higher level.

It’s the same difference between professional Lifeguards and the lifesavers, yet the ALS claims their lifesavers/lifeguards are of the same caliber and the standard on the beaches will be the same under their watch…this is a very unsettling claim indeed.
The ALS have a strong chance to win every tender they bid for on price because they (ALS) have the advantage of being able to use the volunteer surf clubs’ equipment, which has been paid for from the donations of the Australian public.
Just because they have this price advantage, it doesn’t mean they can patrol beaches to an equal or better standard than Professional Lifeguards. In fact it’s to the contrary!

But because the unions and the government are too scared to take SLSA on, the community will not only at serious risk of losing elite watermen and water women who save lives – it will essentially put lives at risk.
Councils’ and SLS NSW concerns with saving money should not come at the expense of the public’s safety. Ask yourself this: If the councils are so concerned with saving the ratepayers a buck or two, why couldn’t the council just reduce the months of work needed of Lifeguards themselves – thus saving the need to tender?
This way, councils could keep their already highly acclaimed waterman, continue to have zero-drowning, keep the service at a high professional standard   and most importantly, keep the lifeguards at an elite level.

It could also eventually destroy decades of hard work, personal and community commitment to creating the invaluable reputation that those visiting our beaches are protected by the most skilled water rescue practitioners in the world!

Those pushing for easy savings and quick fixes need to think about what it would mean to for the notion of beach safety and how it will suffer a real a loss of reputation and public trust. Alarmingly, there are already danger signs emerging.
The ABC’s recent Four Corners investigation legitimately examined the activities and governance of SLS NSW and SLSA (Surf Life Saving Australia) over the past 15 years.
Questions surrounding the integrity, governance and the safety of their own competitions were all raised – with all too few answers.
As the ‘business’ activities of SLS NSW and SLSA expand, people must question why they are coming after council jobs in the first place if there is not a buck in it for them.

It needs to be put on the record that there are both safety professionals and community of people who strongly believe in the protection of beach-goers and that their safety needs to be properly valued against highly-questionable promises of short-term savings.
Because the real cost of a failed experiment will ultimately be counted in deaths.
*Bruce Hopkins is President of the Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguards Association and Head Lifeguard for Waverley Council

[Editor’s note: following the publication last week of a story on the tendering of lifesaving services in NSW, Government News received feedback including a request for a right of reply on behalf of lifeguards retained by councils. The following article is the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher.]

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39 thoughts on “Cuts to Professional Lifeguards put lives at risk

  1. Good on you Bruce.Its about time Surf life Saving was put in its place.While there are many capable and well meaning volunteers they are completly out of their depth when it comes to working alone or working on a busy beach like Bondi.If Waverley Council Lifeguards patrolled the beach like the volenteers do there would be drownings every day at Bondi .Just look at their adds which imply if you don’t swim between the flags we can’t see you so we can’t save you ! what a dicrimetary way of patrolling a beach.Bad luck about my kid on his surfboard he dosen’t count.He was not between the flags .What a load of bullshit.

  2. What you fail to recognise or mention is that ALS life guarding is completely separate to lifesaving in terms of staff. For the benefit of those at home let’s actually define these terms a little better:

    Lifesaver: a voluntary member of a local surf life saving club
    Lifeguard: a professional lifeguard with (in most cases) a higher level of training and fitness.

    Australian Lifeguard Services (ALS) as the name suggests, employs lifeguards. These lifeguards are generally held to the same fitness and training standard as those working for APOLA or councils. So on the point that ALS provided an inferior service you are wrong. In fact at my local beach the lifeguards are council employed and wear APOLA uniforms. They watch movies in the tower, the water ski on rescue boards behind the IRB and they jump their ATV over jumps they built on the sand. Their employer now requires them to wear helmets on the ATV because one of them managed to knock themselves unconscious going this. Oh and did I mention that they post all of this on Facebook.

    The other point you made was that ALS is a commercial organisation that gains advantage by using equipment from local clubs. What needs to be understood is that the state centres running the various ALS services in most cases pay the clubs for use of their equipment and facilities. It actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it as the lifesavers only use it on weekends and the lifeguards generally only use it on weekdays so why have an entirely redundant set of equipment sitting there at all times? On top of that the profits raise through ALS go back to the local clubs … where do APOLA’s profits go?

    The cost reduction seen in ALS’ services is most likely obtained from a reduction in overheads. Instead of each council employing their own set of administrative staff to run the Lifeguard service there is one administrative team for a whole section of coastline with multiple councils.

    Your rambling article doesn’t make sense and you clearly don’t understand the differences between lifeguards and lifesavers, either that or you are hoping to confuse people enough that they’ll simply accept your premise.

  3. Hi Nice try Hoppo!!

    Not saying I’m perfect but I do know more than you think. I would like to set a meeting up with yourself to discuss this issue further as you are clearly from Surf Life Saving.
    Don’t be afraid to sign off by your real name. This is a real situation and I’m not going to stand idolly by while you take career council lifeguard jobs.


  4. And by the way, we dont make any profits. APOLA is a non for profit organsiation and isn’t run like a business.

  5. Bruce ‘Hoppo’ Hopkins in most circles is generally regarded as a good bloke – so I will view his article with a high degree sceptism in that other members of APOLA drafted this response under his name – as it is cries of desperation, is totally inaccurate & misguided.

    APOLA is fast fading in relevance & is now a small (inadequate) representative voice for a minority of Lifeguards who are employed by local Council – noting that not all Council employed Lifeguards are or wish to be members of APOLA.

    APOLA Facts
    – claim to support Council employed Lifeguards and are anti-contracting, however provide training, resources, manpower & other to a CONTRACTOR in Eurobodalla Shire (gee that’s not a touch hypocritical???)
    – have recently participated and assisted in tendering for Lifeguard Contracts – no, not APOLA they are against contracting (or will have you believe)
    – members pay an annual fee, but never has audited financial statements been released to members nor has any Annual Reports ever been published …….mmmmmm
    – often on Council letterhead and through Council emails will APOLA express an APOLA view in a public forum not formal Council position …… Ratepayers???
    – ludicrously claim that due to Bondi Rescue being a TV show that a blue uniform is more recognizable & more easily seen on a crowded beach (yet have the APOLA name on red & yellow uniforms in Eurobodalla)……… Please

    About the ALS
    – commercial business evolved from Councils wishing to contract Lifeguard services (avoid all issues of HR, 12 mth employment of Lifeguards, equipment etc.. – makes sense to save ratepayers dollars)
    – not 1 cent of donated SLS funds has ever assisted the ALS – it is a business in its own right
    – ALS employs many career Lifeguards & others from the Police, Ambos & Fire Service ( Hoppo do you know who you are criticizing?)
    – many of Aust best surf athletes are ALS Lifeguards – I would back the fitness of these guys over some of the, shall we say of questionable looking APOLA lifeguards any day
    – the ALS training & qualifications to become a Lifeguard are superior to APOLA standards – for example – to drive a jetski as an APOLA Lifeguard all you need is a standard personal watercraft licence – however for an ALS Lifeguard the process of earning a jetski licence for rescue purposes is an 8 week course
    – ALS wages are comparable if not higher than Council LIfeguard wages – experienced ALS casual Lifeguards earn over $30/hr – what’s this minimum wage rubbish???
    – ALS has strong & transparent governance (unlike APOLA)
    – the ALS is the largest single employer of Lifeguards in Aust – in NSW the number of employed ALS Lifeguards exceeds APOLA Lifeguards by 3 to 1
    – the safety record of the ALS is exemplemary – just as FYI google the article written in the Australian newspaper by Will Swanton about the resus of a young surfer at Palm Beach by ALS lifeguards

    APOLA need to be very carefully in publicly criticizing the ALS through misinformed, prejudiced & plain wrong comments – often bordering on defamation.

    APOLA are in a fight they are fast losing regarding their relevance & credibility and resort to petty attacks on the industry bench mark in best practice life guarding – the ALS.

    More to the point with their ghost written rhetoric they also tarnish the reputation of a good bloke ….. Time to don the red & yellow APOLA – your gigs up

  6. Typical comment – the first one from Ken Holloway – renowned SLS antagonist – nice language Ken – all class ……..
    Another disgruntled APOLA Lifeguard who bags the hell out of SLS yet held the position of Illawarra Branch Deputy President ……. No conflict of interest there …..?????
    No longer holds the position so watch SLS in the Illawarra now prosper!

  7. Great read Hop! And I’m sure there’s a lot more that needs to be revealed.

    One thing I’d really like to know is, does the ALS or SLSA have a Union member, to help their employees, when there is problems or a disrepency? As an hard Australian worker & tax payer, I feel that every Australian deserves the right to have a representative. If there is no Union, within ALS/SLSA, will you just be told what to do and what pay you’ll get & the conditions you’ll be working under? Cos that’s what seems to be happening.

    Such a shame that so many Australians have worked so hard for a good standing of wages, work conditions & a healthy lifestyle, and now the ALS wants to take that away. I don’t get it? Maybe you could ask one of your biggest donaters, WOODSIDE Minning, for some more money? I’m sure they’ve got plenty more to give you.

    Please explain, where the ALS have gotten all their money from. If the SLSA is a donated fund, shouldn’t all the money be getting spent through that fund? And not another “Arm” of SLSA? Is not a conflict of interest?

    Please let the Australians know, where their donations are really going. I’m sure there’ll be a few that wont be too happy.

  8. Bruce as you know I`m a life member of Bronte Surf Club & have been a member for over 50 years.I have won Australian medals for surf life saving in board races & also boat races. I have represented Australia in Surf Life Saving & have 2 sons who are professional lifeguards for Waverley Council. So i have seen both sides of the picture.Mate i`m a clubby through & through. But one thing for sure is that the difference between the clubbies & the Pros is like chalk & cheese.There would only be a couple of guys in my club that could even handle a rescue in a big sea.You only had to see the rubber duck from our club doing a rescue at the back of the boggy hole.Drove straight into the rocks & was very lucky not to kill the patient.It was all caught on vidio & shown on Bondi Rescue.My mate who i used to row with who now works up Noosa way has told me that in 2 years his wages will be cut & no penalty rates.So it will come down to the old saying if you pay peanuts you will get monkeys. Do yourself a favour & watch a few episodes of Bondi Rescue & you will see how the job should be done. When the s— hits the fan i know who i would like to be coming out to save me.When it`s not broken leave it alone.As for using the clubbies gear.Rubber ducks went out with the shoe lace.These lifeguards that work for Waverley & Randwick Council are experts in Jet Ski rescues.A few of them do towins in huge seas.Highly skilled water men.We have the best in the job at the moment & they are paid well for their skills.Leave them to it & take your crazy ideas somewhere else & leave these highly trained guys to get on with their jobs without some would bs trying to muscle in. Bluey Graham

  9. Hoppo your absolutely right, there is no replacement for the professional lifeguard service, we have the same problem with our ambos and lifeguards in the UK where private company’s come in and say they can run things cheaper but the staff are under qualified for the role they are undertaking.

    The sad thing is governments are usually only concerned about money and not the fatality rate that will more that likely rise as a result.

    Keep up the good work

  10. To all these annonymous people lets set up a meeting at Bondi! Come to my office anytime next week!

    I can can give you the facts face to face.
    If you can come up with a case that ALS can run a beach better then I can then I’ll listen!
    SLS still run campaigns on tv stating ‘if we can’t see you, we can’t save you’ . How can you run a successful service under that belief??

  11. Hey Corey – might pay to do your research first before you align with APOLA lies – as a commercial business the ALS has never & will never receive any donated funds from the public.
    The curent and more Councils that are looking to contract their lifeguard services and contract to the ALS is how the ALS generates income – that’s what a business is!!!

    Send me your address and I will send you some red & yellow uniform so you can join the ALS party …….

    Lookout APOLA your empire is crumbling ……. hello WYONG Council welcome to red & yellow country …..

  12. All these anonymous people!

    Come to my office anytime next week, I’d love to continue to discuss my concerns with you. If you think the ALS can run a beach better then I can then I’ll walk away.

    If all of you think you have an argument please, email me, call me I’m sure you can find my contact details and lets set up a meeting!!!

    I have too much to say then to waste my time going back and forth over a forum with people who dont want to man up and say their name. So how can I believe you have any experience in what your talking about!

  13. Hoppo Hoppo Hoppo – you poor bugger

    You have been hopelessly set up in a fight you cannot win by your APOLA Executive (loose term).

    Look internally and begin to address the inept & hypocritical APOLA philosophy before you start on SLS ……. As ALS Lifeguard pointed out, APOLA is a basket case with very serious questions needing to be asked and answered regrading governance & financial account keeping ……
    It is noted that you could not respond to the points raised (but that’s understandable)

    Lets keep quiet for the moment the government dollars APOLA received for a project that has not yet been undertaken despite having 12 months to complete (shhhh- for another time)

    Mate a bit of advice – jump now before it turns ugly and you are caught up

    To ALL – it is NOT volunteers providing contract Lifeguard services to Council with the ALS – they are also paid professional lifeguards !!!!
    Hoppo please mate post Practice Note 15 here so everyone can understand the minimum standards of ALL professional Lifeguards – fair is fair and you know this is the truth …….

  14. Hi,
    I’m from Eurobodalla Shire and since the change of contracting to the APOLA organisation there has been a huge difference in a good way!
    Keep up the good work in the Eurobodalla Shire boys!

  15. I think a lot of people need to remember that this is public, and it’s not creating a very PROFESSIONAL image for lifeguards, there are a lot of arguments about this but still don’t mess with things that work already.


  16. I think a lot of people need to remember that this is public, and it’s not creating a very PROFESSIONAL image for lifeguards, there are a lot of arguments about this but still don’t mess with things that work already.


  17. I’m a surfer from the Northern Beaches and on a few occasions I’ve had to rescue swimmers myself at Palm Beach, they attempt to get out but just cant sometimes.
    I’m not sure who is who but they had red and yellow lifeguard uniforms on so from reading the article and comments this is the ALS. I think we should leave the professional council lifeguards to do the job.

  18. Just a quick comment regarding “If we can’t see you, we can’t save you”. This is beach and safety education which is more then APOLA is doing. If APOLA want to go out and advertise “swim where you want, a lifeguard will try their best to save you” then go ahead.

    SLS/ALS advertise to swim between the flags which saves so many thousands of people a year. If APOLA want to advertise something different I would be surprised if they could find a better and more sensible saying. APOLA – you’re done for. Bring on more ALS contracts. IS Waverly next to see the light? You might not be but the counsellors might be when they see the cost savings and level of support the ALS offer.

  19. Hi Classy or what ever your name is. It’s the renowned SLS antagonist Ken Holloway.For those in the surf life saving world who don’t know me as well as you do,I’ve been a member of Era SLSC since the age of 11 I’m now 60.I’ve held just about every position in that club at some stage and was instrumental in the succesful 30 year fight to save the communities and the surf clubs at Era, Burning Palms and Garie.As well as supporting Era ,when I moved to the Illawarra I joined Sandon Point and help build that club from 8 members to 700 and ont he way was chairman of the building committee resulting in our club taking posession of a new $4 million dollar club.I do my bit like any other member and I’m proud to be a member of Era and Sandon Point.I’m not proud to be a forced member of the SLSA who are intent on destroying my mates families by taking their jobs !

  20. Seems the red & yellow army clones are angered by your story hoppo, where there is smoke there is fire, you only have to listen to recent stories on 4 corners etc to identify that it is sls who is in serious trouble
    Who would I believe – a legend like hoppo and a creditable organisation like apola or the sls who continues to let the general public down
    God help this once great organisation when the enquiry starts, yes it won’t be long now
    And please if you get caught in a rip do not swim parallel as advised by sls amateurs, unless you want to drown

  21. He doesn’t know much about fire fighting. Comparing urban structural firefighting to bush firefighting is like drawing a comparison between market gardening and grazing cattle on a station because they’re all farmers. Sorry mate but; different environment, different equipment and different skill set. But I’m with you that SLSA is a donations backed corporation and I can see why you’ve got your reservations about them taking over your beach. (By a professional firefighter and volunteer lifeguard)

  22. What i can`t understand is, if you are going to drop wages & conditions for lifeguards why would the top guys apply for these jobs?It`s already happening up at Noosa.APOLA you have as much chance as flying to the moon as to getting your mob into the Waverley area. I can`t wait for your mob to try your luck.You might be able to con the country slickers who are running on empty. But let me tell you we ar`nt broke down here. My rates down here in Waverley are going up heaps this year. Bring it on.I can`t wait. Bluey.

  23. Not being associated with surf life saving in any way, my comment relates more to the public spat and sad reflection of ‘playing politics’ to have a go at each other rather than focusing on achieving outcomes which is saving lives and keeping people safe. May I suggest you all swallow some pride, leave egos at the door and put as much effort and energy into achieving an outcome as you are having a public go at each other. Not a Good look guys…….

  24. Hi everyone. This is Julian the editor of Government News. Thanks for a valuable and passionate debate today. I’m going to grab some Zzzs now so comments posted after this won’t make it up until the (daylight) morning.

  25. Trina
    The sad reality is that if sls were focusing on saving lives rather than becoming big business and elevating their brand this would not be happening
    There are real professionals and experts who do pride themselves on saving lives and then there’s the big organisation bullying the industry while at the same time drowning is on the increase
    If I had 37 million per year there would not be one drowning in the ocean – ever. A Pitty this can’t be said by sls because the money goes into employing mates rather than supporting surf clubs and protecting beach goers

  26. Thankyou Trina – your post is very appropriate! If we look at this through the eyes of our “customers” – the people who we are entrusted to look after in and around the aquatic environment, we need to consider does it really matter to them whether they are being supported by a professional or a volunteer? Our goal should ultimately be to have all aspects of the organisation / business (call it what you want) come together and in the interests of ensuring we have a sustainable, viable future for us all, ensure we deliver a leading practice; consistent and effective service – regardless of whether its via the efforts of a paid professional or through the support of an equally committed volunteer. We need to see less party politics in the media and make space for promoting more of the success stories that our volunteers and paid professionals deserve. The challnege comes down to this:- Are all sides of the debate prepared (and I dare say mature enough) to come together and develop a road map for mutual success for the service / movement (call it what you want) to head down? I pretty sure our “customers” would expect that.

  27. I too am from the Eurobodalla think this whole argument about Volunteers V professionals is nonsense. The lifeguards employed are all clubbies anyway. The only difference is on the weekends they have access to the Lifesaving radio network, good coverage, and during they week they have to rely on poor mobile phone coverage. I even remember reading a Canberra times article that said the volunteers had to rescue a council lifeguard who ventured off to sea with no radio contact. It seems the community receive a far better supported operation when the lifesavers are on the job. In terms of varying skill level, there’s no point in comparing. The ALS all have their gold medallions which includes a rigorous fitness mission.

  28. The best thing about reading through all of these comments is the Professional Lifeguards have the guts to add their names to their comments and the gutless Clubbies hide behind an anonymous title. Amazing…

  29. You don`t have to be a clubbie to get a job as a lifeguard in the Sydney area. Maybe half of the Waverley Council Lifeguards have never been in a surf club.They are all just watermen of the highest standard.Most of them are board riders who know the ocean like the back of their hand.Tamarama is rated the most dangerous beach in Sydney & if you have seen it when the big NE swell is pumping it`s not for the faint hearted.Many a good lifeguard have put their life on the line when it`s pumping at Tama. This is when you need top lifeguards on the job.Don`t even think about trying your APOLA bullshit on the Waverley area as the local press will give it to you with both barrells.As Hoppo has said, man up & come down & have a chat.What have you to say about what is happeng to the lifeguards in the Noosa area? In one word pay cuts & half of the good lifeguards have left.It makes for a very unhappy work place.How would you feel if some wally came along & said we are here to fix the lifeguard service. First up we will cut your wages & conditions. Bloody great mate. Now we are all happy.BULLSHIT. Bluey. PS If you have any balls come down & have a chat.

  30. I just spoke to my lifeguard mate up north & he told me it`s not APOLA that`s the worry.It`s Surf Lifesaving that is trying to take control. All i can say is Heaven help us.So i apologize to APOLA . As i said before if you pay peanuts you will get monkeys. You only have to look at how surf lifesaving has run the Australian Surf titles up in QLD over the last few years. Say no more. Bluey


    G’day again everyone and thanks for the vibrant debate. Just a point on the discussion so far.

    As passionate as this debate is, please don’t resort to swearing. It adds nothing to the debate. We won’t put foul language up – even if other forums accept it.

  32. just have to laugh at the post below…..what do you notice? yep…..written by an “anonymous”….please

    The best thing about reading through all of these comments is the Professional Lifeguards have the guts to add their names to their comments and the gutless Clubbies hide behind an anonymous title. Amazing…
    Posted by . 17/07/2013 02:48:49 PM

    also quality language again posted by an “anonymous”…..over and over again some people just don’t get it – well here it is again for those who take a little more time digesting correct information – ALS LIFEGUARDS ARE PROFESSIONAL LIFEGUARDS THE SAME AS COUNCIL LIFEGUARDS MEETING THE SAME (IF NOT HIGHER) TRAINING & FITNESS STANDARDS – IF YOU WANT TO CRITICISE ALS LIFEGUARDS YOU ARE CRITICISING POLICE OFFICERS, FIRIES, AMBOS & PARAMEDICS PLUS SOME OF THE BEST SURF ATHLETES….

    A previous post mentioned an ALS Lifeguard rescue & resus at Palm Beach in 10 foot swell ….enough said & argument won (just like NSW will win tonight)

  33. Obviously the ALS lifeguards don’t focus entirely on being the best lifeguard they can be when their full-time/professional job is either a policeman, ambo or paramedics? The council lifeguards pride themselves on making life guarding a career!!!
    To the person who just cannot man up and write their name and continuing to post incorrect information, you are clearly becoming flustered (writing in caps doesnt make people listen to you) by most people backing the argument!
    Also your trying to confuse the public by saying ALS lifeguards are of the same training standard. How can that be when you even said yourself that your ALS lifeguards have other jobs on the side. I have a good friend who is a ALS lifeguard in the Sunshine Coast, I called them to ask questions about pay and training and I can confirm.. The ALS lifeguards are only put through a half day jetski course and the EB is $24 per hour!!! You get more as a junior receptionist!
    So I’m sorry, to the person writing in caps, Surf Life Saving will not win this battle. I can assure you. There are some people who know way more than you think. Marty Sunshine Coast

  34. If anyone is unconvinced about the massive problems about within SLSA (ALS’s body organisation) – check out the Four Corners expose from earlier this year. One of the most respected programs in Australian TV, they don’t beat things up. Reading the transcript that will make your blood boil. The organisation is a disgrace.

    ALS lifeguard commenting above – I’ve seen both sides perform and to claim ALS is the industry standard is complete rubbish. No one cares if they’re cops etc. Just that they can do the job. Besides, the underlying truth is ALS motives are conflicted and ultimately compromising.

    Volunteer from Eurobodalla – how many ex-pro surfers, former iron men, Aust title holders, and world class big wave/tow surfers have you got in the volunteer ranks you mention above – supposedly as good as the pro LGs? And hearsay about pro lifeguards being rescued doesn’t cut it. Here’s one first hand – President of Bronte surf club rescued by Waverley Council lifeguards summer 2011.

  35. In reply to the person talking about volunteers – how many of the APOLA lifeguards in the Eurobodalla are pro surfers, ironmen, australian title holders. None. You keep hearing the same S*&t from both sides. Here’s the thing. The public couldn’t care less who pulls them out of the water, so why don’t you all get over it. At the end of the day ALS provides very good training to its professional lifeguards, Surf Life Saving provides very good training to its volunteers. I’m sure APOLA are comptent at what they do to. But there must be reasons why they keep losing tenders?
    Surely the councils involved assess and look at the training and there’s no doubt that as a nationally recognised training organisation Surf Life Saving can and does provide sufficient training and capability to not only win the tender, but deliver the results on the beaches, as the largest employer of Lifeguards in NSW.
    Red and Yellow is internationally recognised for safety, and should be implemented on all council lifeguards uniforms nationwide.

  36. Yes Conan, but you cannot teach people ‘experience’ and that’s one of two things you lose with a cut-price salary. The other is lives…

  37. Conan
    You need to get your facts right. Firstly, APOLA aren’t losing tenders because one they don’t tender and the council lifeguards are emplyed by council, not APOLA. Eurobadalla is tendered out to a private company, they just use the APOLA accreditation.
    As for red and yellow being recognized around the world I must make you aware Bondi Lifeguard wear blue, their Facebook page is over 130k the Surf Lifesaving Facebook page is only at 18k so looking at internationally I’d say the Bondi blue is more reconised! And I haven’t even started on their twitter following!
    In my opinion red & yellow = volunteer and Bondi Blue/APOLA = professional and many people agree.

  38. I’m possibly in a unique position, in that I’ve worked both for ALS, and as a council guard (though not for Waverly Council). And while I worked with some excellent ALS guards, I have to say that the standard of council guards is generally far superior. And the reason for this is pretty straight forward. The council pays more, so is able to attract and (perhaps more significantly) retain better guards.

    ALS guards are typically (there are some exceptions) transient employees. Most are students, looking to work a fun summer job until they graduate and move on to their chosen career. In my experience, most last around two to three years. And then they leave, and the experience is lost.

    By comparison, most Council guards are career professionals, who bring with them a huge amount of knowledge. And when it comes to saving lives, I think this is pretty important.

    Having worked for ALS, it was pretty clear to me their business model involved using mostly student employees to keep wages low (and let’s be honest, the lower wages are where most of the savings come from). That’s fantastic if you’re running a fast-food restaurant, but when it comes to saving lives, I really do believe the council guards are worth the extra money.

    Look, I don’t think the ALS is as terrible as some might claim. I just think council lifeguard services are generally of a much better standard, and that’s worth paying for.

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