Bermagui’s surf life saving club is one of three on the Far South Coast recognised for exemplary service during the bushfire in Tathra earlier this year.
Its call-out team, along with the ones from Tathra and Pambula, was jointly announced as winner of the Services Team of the Year Award at the NSW Surf Life Saving Awards of Excellence.
On March 18, the Bermagui call-out team responded to a request from NSW Police to open the club house as an evacuation centre and eventually housed 320 people.
“You don’t do things like that with an award in mind. You just get in and you do it,” Bermagui SLSC secretary Cheryl McCarthy said.
“We had a number of members and people in our community who worked really hard that night.
“It’s nice to recognise their efforts and show what they did made a difference.”
The call from police came through at 4.30pm that day, she said, with evacuees arriving at the club house about 15 minutes later.
But the team pulled together quickly, with about 20 frontline members kicking off the support before they were joined by other members as well as family and eventually the whole town provided help.
For instance, Ms McCarthy said a call was made to the local chemist who supplied medication to people who had left Tathra quickly without theirs. The town’s Woolworths provided supplies for those housed at the evacuation centre. Also, people from Bermagui offered their homes as accommodation so everyone who wanted to stay in a house that night was accommodated.
“It really was a whole town experience,” Ms McCarthy said.
She said none of the members who worked that day had any training in evacuation centres and the club house was not set up to be such a centre, but thought the operation went so effectively because the type of volunteers drawn to surf life saving were those who wanted to train for situations you do not expect.
“We are proud of the contribution we were able to make that day,” Ms McCarthy said.