When an 8-year-old girl was swept on her body board out of Newcastle’s Canoe Pool, onto the rocks and into the ocean during 14-foot dangerous swell in January, City of Newcastle lifeguard Mick Body sprang into action.
He moved quickly along the rock shelf and dived into the treacherous surf conditions, rescuing the young girl who was struggling to stay above the rough water. Mick, joined by another lifeguard (Luke Kelly), held onto her and navigated the large swell to return her to the safety of shore and her frantic family.
It is this display of courage, professionalism and experience that has earned the City of Newcastle Lifeguard an Australian Professional Ocean (APOLA) Lifeguard Association Meritorious Service Award, the highest accolade in the profession.
Mick, who has worked as a professional lifeguard for almost 20 years said he was honoured to receive the National Award and to be recognised for doing a job he loves and is passionate about.
“It was a surprise, but definitely an honour to be recognised with this award,” Mr Body said.
“During large swells waves engulf the Canoe Pool and then bounce off the side of the ocean baths creating a strong side wash which catches people by surprise. I’m pleased our rescue that day avoided an almost certain drowning.
“As lifeguards we have the best office in the world. Every day is new and that is exciting. The beauty of working on the beach is that we are ambassadors for our city and meet people from all over who come here to enjoy themselves.”
City of Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes praised Mick’s quick-thinking and lifesaving action.
“Our lifeguards provide an absolutely invaluable service to our community and regularly go beyond the call of duty to keep our community safe,” the Lord Mayor said.
“Without Mick’s bravery, advanced skills and knowledge of the beach, the outcome would have certainly been a tragic one.
“I’m proud that this incredible effort has been acknowledged on a national stage and I thank all of our lifeguards for their daily acts of kindness, bravery and courage.
“Each surf season City of Newcastle lifeguards save on average 100 lives and perform more than 15,000 preventative actions as more than one million people visit local beaches.
“Lifeguards are extremely proactive when it comes to taking preventative measures. This can include asking surfers to surf outside the flagged area to urging beach goers to swim between the red and yellow flags instead of near dangerous rips.
“When prevention fails, it can often take just split seconds for swimmers to find trouble and the same time for lifeguards to act.”
City of Newcastle has also been recognised by APOLA for continuing to deliver its Water Safety Education Program to local young people and the City’s multicultural community during COVID. The program is presented by City Newcastle’s lifeguards and teaches fundamental water safety skills and preventative measures.
The face-to-face program, which has run for 52 years, targets primary school students and works with the Multicultural Neighbourhood Centre and University of Newcastle Language Centre.
By developing an adapted COVID-safe program, City of Newcastle Lifeguards were still able to virtually reach 14,000 primary students in the Newcastle ensuring the community was able to receive vital information that may prevent drownings.