As a young girl growing up in Bundaberg, Wendy Johnston recalls very little exposure to the red and yellow of Queensland surf life savers.
But fast forward a few decades, and a lot of community service, and Wendy is one of the few women in the region to ever receive the prestigious honour of a National Medal for her sustained service and commitment to Surf Life Saving.
Wendy joined Bundaberg Surf Life Saving Club in 2002, as 30-year-old, single mother looking for an activity to participant in with her two young children, Brodie and Abby.
Little did she realise at the time, that her efforts and selfless contribution would lead her down a path of both personal and professional growth.
The National Medal recognises long and diligent service in organisations that are dedicated to protecting life and property at a degree of risk to their members, and it is awarded to individuals who risk their life or safety to protect or assist the community.
Wendy is just one of two Bundaberg Surf Life Saving Club women to ever receive the prestigious medal in its 96-year history.
“Lifesaving helped me raise my children,” Wendy said.
“It was very rewarding watching them develop from nippers into mature adults.
“My children spent more time at the beach then they did in their own back yard.”
For seven straight years Wendy, Brodie and Abby selflessly put their names forward to volunteer their time together as a family patrolling Nielson Park beach on Christmas Day to ensure the safety of others.
“Christmas day was about setting an example for my children; putting our hands up as volunteers to share a portion of one of the busiest days on the beach with each other,” Wendy said.
“And also sharing it year after year with the same three or four generations of families who would visit during the Christmas patrols was special.
“It was about giving and receiving joy because of the need for it on that day.”
Wendy had totalled close to 1400 beach patrol hours by the end of 2020 – hours that had been accumulated as a volunteer surf lifesaver over 18 years requiring a Bronze Medallion qualification.
Included in these 18 years were also 10 years as a paid lifeguard requiring a Gold Medallion.
“It’s just what I do, what I want to do – the number of hours is not relevant to me,” Wendy said.
“I am feeling proud of the recognition, it was a long-standing goal of mine, and since receiving the National Medal I have really been blown away by the feedback I have received from the community.
“The fact that people have taken the time to read about it – it’s just really nice.
“I hope I have set an example for others to contribute.”
She thanked other surf lifesaving members for taking the time to mentor not only herself, but her children.
“There have been so many people at the club who have given so freely, from Craig Holden and Lynda Cremer.
“I want to thank Craig in particular for demonstrating the passion and being a wonderful influence on my son – I am so grateful.”
Another special achievement for Wendy was being made a Life Member of the Bundaberg Surf Lifesaving Club in 2017.
And she now hopes to set an example for other community members, no matter their age or background, as she encourages them to step out of their comfort zone, seek the red and yellow, and give back to wonderful Bundaberg community.
“It’s really changed my life, both personally and professionally,” Wendy said. “And it’s like what they say, ‘when you can’t take it anymore – then start to give’.”
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