When I was 18 I was nominated to take over the role of Youth Development Officer at a small surf life saving club in Marcoola, QLD, Australia. I was in charge of ensuring young people had a safe, supportive place to come, where they could have fun and learn skills for advanced beach rescue and competition. I spent the next five years developing my understanding of young people and built a solid skill set in communications, event management, fundraising, grant application, stakeholder engagement and goal setting. I developed several programs that were adopted nationally and internationally to help recruit, retain and develop youth within volunteer organizations around the world. In 2008 I was thrilled to be named the QLD Young Lifesaver of the Year recognising my contribution to the movement. I had reached a level of understanding in Youth Development where I was eventually being sought out to advise and contribute in leadership camps, the development of resources, and individual coaching for clubs in their approach towards recruiting and retaining youth. My presentation during a conference in Australia explained the role and importance of youth in surf life saving and can be found here.
What is Surf Life Saving?
Surf Life Saving in Australia is a national movement for beach safety encompassing educational awareness programs, global sporting competitions, and proactive monitoring of beach activities on busy beaches every day throughout the year. With many sporting options competing for attention and time in Australia, it is crucial for the sustainability of the movement to recruit and develop young members to transfer knowledge and inspire the continued innovation of beach safety awareness and primary care rescue for beachgoers.
The Youth Involvement Program is a youth recruitment and retention tool for volunteer beach safety organizations in Australia. It acts as a recognition and reward scheme for identifying areas where young people can volunteer and assist within the Surf Life Saving movement in Australia. The Youth Involvement Program was developed by Anglesea Surf Life Saving Club in Victoria, Australia. It was modeled off the Duke of Edinburgh Awards with 3 tiers of achievement; Bronze, Silver, Gold.earning respective recognition and rewards upon reaching each milestone.
My involvement came in 2008, Surf Life Saving QLD, had initiated the program a few years earlier but was having trouble marketing it to youth and individual clubs as it was difficult to understand and there were limited resources for implementation. As a member of SLSQ Membership Services Committee, I was delegated on a two-person team to revolutionise the program for present youth and package it for simple rollout throughout the state with an aim to go national if successful.
With my team member, Amanda Janssen (nee Hinkley) we wrote the copy for the Participant Handbook and Coordinator Handbook, developed streamlined categories and overhauled the points system. We also developed individual resources to help promote and implement the program at an individual club level and resources to help state authorities monitor the participants
The Program is currently implemented in several states in Australia as a powerful youth recruitment and retention scheme. It has developed over time and will continue to evolve to the needs of the community.