Make safety a priority at the beach this summer break

AS the weather heats up and people flock to the Illawarra’s beaches to cool down, authorities are urging the community to make safety the priority when in, on or around the water.

Wollongong is home to 17 patrolled beaches from Stanwell Park in the north to Windang in the south, and they’re patrolled Monday to Saturday by lifeguards. On Sundays and public holidays volunteer Surf Life Savers are on patrol at the beaches.

Wollongong City Council lifeguards or volunteer lifesavers are on duty when red and yellow flags are displayed. No flags = no swim.

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said that safety at the beach is a big concern especially as people often let their relaxation extend to their surf vigilance during the holidays.

“We know that safety is the last thing on your mind while you have last-minute presents to wrap and lots of celebrating to do. We’re asking for your help this summer by following the rules around swimming at the beach so that we can all enjoy a happy and safe summer,” Cr Bradbery said.

“As always, we ask all beach goers is to look for the red and yellow flags and only swim at one of Council’s 17 patrolled beaches. Our Lifeguards and volunteer life savers will be on duty across the festive period, and they need your help to keep you safe. Swim between the flags and they’ll be there to help if you get in trouble.

“We also ask that you continue to follow the advice of our Lifeguards and the volunteer life savers. They are experts when it comes to understanding the sea conditions and they will be able to advise you when and where is safe to swim.”

NSW Police Marine Area Commander, Superintendent Murray Reynolds, said police do not want to see any tragedies in or on our waterways throughout the holiday season and over the summer months.

“We want everyone to be safe and have fun this summer, so whether you’re at the beach, a river, lake or swimming pool, it is important to know the conditions and possible hazards that you may encounter,” Supt Reynolds said.

“We also strongly urge boat skippers and jetski riders to be aware of swimmers and to heed speed limits when out on the water – speeding and riding too close to swimmers is not only dangerous but will see you issued a fine.

“And remember – if you’ve been drinking, do not swim as alcohol and water do not mix. The last thing anyone wants to see is that kind of terrible loss of life around our waterways – particularly at Christmas – so please, act responsibly and look out for your mates.”

Surf Life Saving NSW’s Director of Lifesaving, Joel Wiseman, urged beachgoers to remember always swim between the red and yellow flags.

“We are reminding people about the power of the ocean environment and of just how quickly things can change, which is why it is so important to swim at a patrolled location and between the red and yellow flags,” Mr Wiseman said.

“If you are caught in a rip current, the number one priority is to remain calm and conserve your energy. Attract the attention of a lifesaver or lifeguard and wait to be rescued. If you are a competent swimmer, you can escape the rip by swimming parallel to the shore.

“Lifesavers want everyone to enjoy the beach safely, and that will always remain our highest priority, but we really want people to take heed of the safety messages and watch out for their own and others safety.”

Marine Rescue’s Acting Commissioner Alex Burrell implored the community to follow all relevant safety advice to ensure everyone had an enjoyable outing across the state’s waterways.

“The appearance of many inland waterways, including rivers and dams, can be deceiving, such as the depth, current, temperature or submerged objects, so it is important to check before you get in – or you might be caught out,” A/Commissioner Burrell said.

“Be aware of all conditions – water conditions and the weather can be unpredictable. We strongly urge people to be mindful of rips and changes, and do not swim at night.

“It is also important to follow directions given by authorities whether it be police, lifesavers or maritime, know your own capabilities and properly supervise any children and loves ones in the water.”

For more information about the Illawarra’s beaches, pools and rock pools, visit Wollongong City Council’s Dive Into Summer webpage.

Not sure how to get to the beach? There are public transport options available such as the Free Gong Shuttle Bus. You can see a map of the routes and stops using the following links:

55A Gong Shuttle (anticlockwise loop)

55C Gong Shuttle (clockwise loop)

You can also find information about local bus routes on the Transport for NSW website.

Tips for keeping safe:

  • Only swim in waterways that are patrolled – swim between the red and yellow flags and always listen to advice from lifeguards
  • Read and observe the safety signs
  • If you cannot swim, do not go into the water
  • Wear a life jacket, whether you are on a boat or out fishing
  • Always swim with someone else and look out for each other
  • Always supervise children around the water
  • Never swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Learn how to identify a rip
  • If you need help, stay calm and attract attention
  • Always wear a lifejacket while boating or rock-fishing
  • If witnessing an in-water emergency, call Triple Zero (000) for police.

More information about water safety is available at

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About Mick Roberts

A journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of Australian pubs and associated industries for over 30 years. He is working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick managed several community newspapers. He has been editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), the Sydney city newspaper, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW.


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