As surf lifesavers gear up to watch over beachgoers this holiday season, the crew of Surf Life Saving WA’s (SLSWA) Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Heli Service will also take to the sky, with Christmas Day marking 43 years since the service first commenced operations.
In its first season, the service, based out of Floreat, patrolled on weekends and public holidays for a four-month period from Christmas Day 1980 until late April 1981, during which time it flew twenty-two missions.
Its second season of operations extended to six months, commencing on 3rd October 1981 through until 13 April 1982.
In 2011, the metropolitan-based service moved to daily patrols for the first time, and a second aircraft was commissioned as operations in the south west commenced.
Today, Surf Life Saving WA operates two helicopters out of bases in Busselton and North Fremantle, flying nearly 1,000 hours and over 110,000 km across the West Australian coastline each season.
As the service celebrates 50 years of partnership with Westpac nationally, SLSWA Helicopter Services Coordinator Tim Gleeson said it was great to be part of the legacy that is the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service, Australia’s first civilian search and rescue service.
“The partnership with Westpac is one of the longest community partnerships in Australia,” said Mr Gleeson.
“It has been a free community service since inception, and no one has ever had to pay to be rescued.”
“Today, as our crews gear up to spend Christmas Day and the holiday period patrolling and watching over West Australian beachgoers, we are proud to continue to deliver this essential service to the community”, said Mr Gleeson.
“Whilst the service in WA has undergone numerous changes since inception, it is fantastic to say that 43 years later, thanks to the support of partners like Westpac, we can still keep watch over West Australian beaches.”
Westpac State General Manager Western Australia Larissa Shepherd said “Westpac is incredibly proud of our partnership with the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service, which has been keeping Australians safe for half a century.
“The Service has been there for West Australians for five decades, keeping watch over friends and families along our beautiful coastline”, Larissa said.
Heading into the holiday period, in addition to daily patrols by the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter service, surf lifesavers will continue to patrol across popular West Australian beaches. Surf Life Saving WA urges beachgoers to seek out these patrolled locations, with statistics showing that last season, over 90% of drownings occurred more than 1km from patrolled locations.
To find out where patrols are operating, visit www.beachsafe.org.au
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