History of Surf Life Saving in the Illawarra
Formation: An attempt to form an Association in 1916 was made, but in view of the war, it was decided to allow further action to remain in abeyance.
A meeting of representatives of Surf Bathing Clubs in the South Coast District was held at the Bulli Council Chambers on 17th November 1917, to consider and, if thought advisable, take the necessary steps for the establishment of an Association.
The meeting was convened by Mr. W.F. Harmer the Hon.Secretary of Bulli Surf Bathers Life-Saving Club and clubs represented were Wollongong North, Wollongong South, Corrimal, Bulli, Austinmer and Helensburgh.
The name South Coast Surf Bathing Association was adopted and the inaugural officers were:- President: W.F.Harmer, Hon.Treasurer: M.Hegarty, Hon.Secretary: W.J.Bourke, Hon.Examiner-in-Chief: W.F.Harmer.
The South Coast Association was to experience a period of severe teething troubles before assuming a level keel with troubles in awards, affiliation to other bodies and the forming of a Sub-Association.
In December 1917 the Association decided to affiliate with the Royal Life Society of NSW.
The adoption of NSW Surf Association awards and breakaway from the Royal Life Society took from 30th December 1918 to 14th November 1920 and was brought about mainly by the inactivity of the 1918/19 & 1919/20 seasons experienced within the South Coast association under Royal Life Society conditions and their unsuitability to open sea life saving with the reel and belt.
Affiliation with the SLSA of NSW (new name) with the full acceptance of their Constitution, and becoming a Sub-Association was passed at 20th October 1920 meeting.
The name South Coast Branch of the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia was adopted on 8th November 1924 with this changing to Illawarra Branch of the SLSA of Australia on 16th November 1929 as this more emphasised our true boundaries.
Growth: There was a time in Illawarra’s growth when we were considered the largest Branch in Australia as we controlled clubs from Helensburgh-Stanwell Park in the north to Mollymook in the south but this was also the cause of many administration problems with the Board of Examiners severely stretching manpower to conduct examinations and gear inspections.
This situation continued until the 1978/79 season when it was mooted to form a separate Branch to be known as the South Coast Branch with clubs under their control from Warilla-Barrack Point to Mollymook while Illawarra confined their control to clubs within the boundaries of The City of Wollongong – Windang to Helensburgh-Stanwell Park.
Outstanding Officers: Jack Cahill, Gordon Worland, Frank Tier, Allan ‘Giant’ Figtree, Ron Middleton, Jack Mawson, Les Scoble, Ted Marshall BEM, Gil Grant OAM, Con Asmussen MBE, Bill Carr, Alec Davidson, Don Moir, Bob Little OAM and Don Gray OAM all gave yeoman service to Illawarra and Surf Life Saving in general with Frank Tier being a driving force behind the constitutional changes necessary for the establishment of ‘Head Centre’ the forerunner to the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia.
Illawarra Branch was also very much involved with the New South Wales State Centre being formed as a separate entity in the 1949/59 season.
The Present: The name remains the same as does the area of control and Illawarra is enjoying a stellar existence as one of eleven branches in NSW with members contributing to NSW and Australia through committee representation and as recipients of NSW Awards of Excellence honours.