Dedicated Surf Lifesaving Queensland (SLSQ) member and lifelong Bundaberg resident Craig Holden was celebrated for his years of community service when he was named Citizen of the Year at the Bundaberg Region’s 2024 Australia Day Awards.
A member of SLSQ since the age of five, Craig's volunteer roles have ranged from patrol captain to surf coach, coach mentor and selector for Queensland and Australian Surf Lifesaving Teams.
Craig has dedicated years of his life to promoting surf safety and awareness and in 2023 was honoured with a National Medal, Second Clasp, recognising 35 years of active patrolling as a volunteer surf lifesaver.
Craig also served as the Surf Lifesaving Wide Bay Capricorn Regional Development Officer/Manager/Operations Manager from 1997 to 2021 and has been a branch, state and national champion in surf sports in a career spanning almost 40 years.
Craig said he was gobsmacked to receive the Citizen of the Year award at the annual Bundaberg Region Australia Day Awards, and he was actually off on patrol the very next morning.
“We don’t do it for the recognition so it’s humbling to think someone thought I deserved to be nominated,” Craig said.
“Surf lifesaving is probably my life to tell you the truth.
“It's just ingrained in me, I've been doing it for so long that it's just second nature.
“I couldn't think of anything better in a region such as Bundaberg, where as far as I'm concerned we have some of the most beautiful beaches in Queensland, probably Australia.
“So I'm very passionate about making sure that locals, visitors and tourists who have come to one of our beautiful beaches don’t end up drowning or in trouble.”
A lifelong passion for Craig
Craig said he considered his biggest contribution to be his training and coaching of young kids at clubs across the region.
“It’s a bit of a passion of mine just to see the kids develop,” he said.
“I had a pretty special moment this year because I coached the Australian Youth Surf Lifesaving team, so probably my best moment was my son Kobi making that team and me coaching him and taking him on his first overseas trip.”
Craig said that family involvement had always been at the heart of what he does.
“My mum and dad are both life members at the Elliot Heads Surf Lifesaving Club so they’ve been on that journey with myself and my brother,” he said.
“Also my entire family [are members], my wife and two children, so that’s the thing I’m proud of, that my kids are following in the journey and following in my footsteps.”
Craig said he encouraged anyone looking to make a difference in the community to just go for it.
“I think we're pretty lucky in this day and age that we have a lot of people who want to do things that make a difference,” Craig said.
“So just get out there and have a go, there’s no harm in failing and you learn from your mistakes.
“If you want to do something you’re passionate about doing, just go and do it.”