Raising Volunteer Marine Rescue Service profile to boost sign-ups

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Simon Miller supports Volunteer Marine Rescue groups from Jurien Bay to Exmouth.
Camera IconSimon Miller supports Volunteer Marine Rescue groups from Jurien Bay to Exmouth. Credit: Adam Poulsen

WA’s Volunteer Marine Rescue Service wants its public profile to match that of other emergency services.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services is planning to rebrand marine rescue groups and improve their image, elevating it to that of instantly recognisable services such as Surf Life Saving.

The shake-up comes after the State Government last year announced a record $19 million of funding for VMR groups over four years.

The funding led to the addition of two extra district manager marine roles — effectively doubling the number in WA.

As the DFES district manager marine for the Mid West-Gascoyne, Simon Miller supports VMR groups from Jurien Bay to Exmouth.

Mr Miller said it was hoped that by raising the profile of VMR groups more volunteers would sign up.

“If you think of some of the other services like Surf Life Saving or the State Emergency Service, they’ve got quite a good public image,” he said.

“Whether it’s a Surf Life Saving group in Geraldton or Perth, they look the same, they wear the same uniforms and they’re branded the same.

“That’s something we want for the Volunteer Marine Rescue.”

Mr Miller said the rebranding would involve the standardisation of vessels and uniforms across the State’s 37 VMR groups.

Geraldton Surf Life Saving Club president Blair Walkington said the uniformity of Surf Life Saving clubs contributed to their positive image.

He said the Nippers program had also largely accounted for the steady supply of volunteers.

“Junior beach and surf awareness isa skill that parents encourage their kids to take on as early as possible, whereas boating safety generally comes in in their teenage years,” Mr Walkington said.

“Alot of older clubs have that culture where every generation has been part of nippers and stays with the club. We’ve got members that are three or four generations deep.”

Rebranding initiatives are already ongoing in Geraldton, where the city’s VMR group recently released a series of slick, professionally produced recruitment videos on social media.

The group has also hosted social events, including a meet and greet at Piper Lane, in a bid to increase their presence in the community.

Like their VMR counterparts elsewhere, the group is regularly involved in life or death search and rescues.

The group recently played a vital role in the rescue of kitesurfer Matthew Wing, who went missing off the Geraldton coast and spent a freezing night wrapped in his kite on a remote beach.

Mr Miller said the creation of two new district manager marine positions had greatly improved DFES’ capability to provide training and support to regional VMR groups.

“Out of the 37 VMR groups, 31 are based in the regions,” he said.

“When there were only two district managers, I was doing the southern half of the State, so I was trying to assist about 19 groups.

“Me being in Geraldton, a lot of the groups are on my doorstep now. I can do day visits to Jurien Bay, Leeman, Port Denison or Kalbarri.”

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