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Connect With…Urunga Surf Life Saving Club

Meet Urunga Surf Life Saving Club – one of our ConnectABLE project partners. Based at Hungry Head and established almost 70 years ago, the club recently won the Bellingen Shire ‘Community Group of the Year’ Australia Day Award for 2014. We talk with President Vanessa Nugent, Life Member Paul Bastick and his daughter Gabby about what makes the club inclusive and why anyone in the community should feel welcome to get involved.

Why did the Urunga Surf Life Saving Club join the ConnectABLE project?

Vanessa: We signed up as we thought it was a very positive project and a wonderful opportunity for members of our community who want to volunteer their time but might experience barriers to doing this because of restrictions placed on them.

What does being inclusive and accessible actually mean for community clubs/groups on a day to day basis?

Vanessa: For me, the project has made me think about access issues at our club and opportunities to include all members of our community in what we do. In time, if we have people with support needs working and functioning as part of our club community on a daily basis, that would be brilliant. The ConnectABLE project has made me start thinking about these things so in that sense, it has already been valuable to the club.

Paul and Gabby – how did you first get involved in the club?

Paul: I’m a school teacher originally from Sydney. I moved to Bellingen and in 1991 myself and another teacher decided to get our Bronze Medallion. We thought it would be a good thing to have. Since then I’ve held just about every position in the club over the last 20 years – Treasurer, President, Instructor, Nippers – I took my four daughters through Nippers. They were always at the beach with us any way so we enrolled them because they learn lots of great skills, get some qualifications and gain confidence in the water.  I love coming to the beach every day. It’s a lot of fun.

Gabby: My sisters did it – I’ve always been coming to the beach.  Also, being a part of the club is good for when you get older because you gain qualifications that can go on your resume.

Paul: It can also lead to paid work during the holidays which is good money for school kids.

What makes the club a good option as a community activity? Why would anyone feel welcome to get involved?

Paul: It’s a volunteer group so people are fairly willing and have a ‘more the merrier’ attitude. You don’t have to be a swimmer or a board paddler – some members never get their feet wet! There are lots of jobs that don’t involve being in the water, like working in the radio tower. And if you have admin skills that would really come in handy for the club. We all work really well as a team and we need people who are interested in sharing around all the different jobs.

Gabby: It really is a lovely environment. Everyone is really polite to each other and you don’t feel any angst here. Everyone is willing to help each other out. It’s a good community place. There are development camps for under 14s so you get to meet people, make friends from other clubs and see them at carnivals.

Paul: I think being a smaller club makes us more inclusive. We don’t want to alienate anyone and we want more people in the community to get involved. We advertise the club as open to all sorts of abilities. People think you need to be an Olympic swimmer but that’s definitely not the case.

What would you say to someone who was thinking about joining up?

Paul: I can see how it might be daunting for some people who might not have been involved in something like this before. If people have the confidence, they’re welcome to come knock on the door of the radio tower or chat to someone on patrol and they’ll point them in the right direction. We also have training courses we advertise so that might be a better option for others if they would prefer to be in a group and not be the only new person. You can also get involved by helping with fundraising and events such as the annual Golf Day we hold in Urunga on the first Monday of December.

Gabby: We all have our own traits and qualities. Everyone is different. Everyone is welcome to join the club, put in what they can and make it better.

For more information on how to join the Urunga Surf Life Saving Club, visit


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