Kurrawa Surf Life Saving Club
by Cathy Reid
Kurrawa Surf Life Saving Club is well on the way to its goal of becoming ‘the greatest club on the beach’, recently being named Australia’s Surf Lifesaving Club of the Year.
The club’s Coaching and Development Manager Peter Milburn said the recognition was testament to the commitment of the highly motivated committee members.
‘We have some of the best club members in Australia and winning awards is great, but what makes the club go from strength to strength is the dedication of our people,’ Peter said.
The club follows the philosophy that prevention is the key to the success of a surf lifesaving club and has worked on improving the way it warns people of potential dangers.
‘Our whole premise is that we want Kurrawa to be the safest beach in Queensland, so the emphasis is on prevention not cure. We made sure we developed our management systems to allow us to do this and we’ve done incredibly well.’
In fact, the club has had a 15 per cent increase in prevention over the last 12 months, and rescues have decreased by 8 per cent.
‘That’s a real plus for us. We’ve got better-trained, high-quality members doing more work in preventing problems and that’s showing up in fewer rescues.’
This is part of the club’s continuous improvement program, which has been in place for four years now.
‘We conduct annual planning conferences where we set the agenda and future direction of the club.
‘Last year we also introduced the Australian Sports Commission’s Club Development Network Checklist to help our planning, which has been really worthwhile.
Being inclusive is also a key to Kurrawa’s success, the club drawing on a broad range of expertise in its management committee and making sure all members have access to the decision-making process.
‘We like to give everybody the opportunity to put their point of view forward and let us know what they believe we should be doing.’
The younger members of the club also get involved through the Leadership and Youth Development Program, which centres around a system of vice-captains.
‘Our sectional heads identify enthusiastic youngsters and we take very good care to nurture them by encouraging them to come on board as vice-captains and learn the ropes.
‘We see young people as the future of our club and their input is vitally important. We actually focus on finding out from them what their needs are, rather than assuming we know what they want. So then we can provide an atmosphere that is attractive to all age groups and facilities to suit everyone in the club.’
A number of teenagers hold key positions in the club, such as 16-year-old Matt Conaghan, who is the Radio Officer in charge of the communications network.
‘We’ve also got two teenage girls who are our first aid officers, Emily Leiner and Courtney Smith, who keep our first aid equipment up to date.’
Social nights are an important way of maintaining the club spirit, and Kurrawa has members’ nights twice a week, plus a monthly get together. These sometimes serve as fundraisers to ensure the club stays well-equipped.
This is one of the aspects of the club that has impressed Surf Life Saving Australia’s National Development Manager Chris Giles.
‘Kurrawa has developed systems that really value its members. The club has put some really good improvement processes in place that respect the needs of the membership,’ Chris said.
‘Other clubs could learn a lot from Kurrawa about how to do the simple things right and start planning for the future. It’s simple measures that can make all the difference, whether you are a large or small club.’
Another focus area for Kurrawa has been communication, and the club sends out a monthly newsletter via email and hard copy, incorporating relevant information from the state and national bodies.
‘We also have our members on a database so we can send text messages out very quickly,’ Peter said.
This professional approach has won the club many major awards, including the Branch Efficiency Award as the best patrolling group out of 30 Gold Coast clubs.
Kurrawa has been named the Queensland Supporters Club of the Year for the past two years and recently took out the overall Gold Coast Club of the Year award, ahead of a host of sporting and service clubs.
A critical part of maintaining this success is a thorough evaluation process.
‘Every year we evaluate everything we’ve done and then that becomes part of a planning process for the following year. We’ve become very good at devising systems to evaluate how we’re going and what we’re doing, all the while ensuring we are sticking with the same philosophies as Surf Life Saving Australia and Surf Life Saving Queensland.
‘We do statistical analysis on a monthly basis, so at the end of the year we have an enormous amount of data which can highlight any areas we need to look at for improvement.’
This allows Kurrawa to continually evolve and maintain its goal of being the best club on the beach.