Swimming between the Woke flags

Written by:
22 December 2023
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Originally Appeared In

One of the things that makes Australia so great is the fact that more than a quarter of Australians aged 15 and over participate in unpaid voluntary work.

Volunteerism is a core aspect of the Australian way of life. It enriches and unifies the nation through a stronger community and allows people to contribute to the general welfare of society.

It really does not bear thinking where we would be as a society today without the selfless volunteer firefighters, surf lifesavers, social workers, and all those who dedicate their time for the betterment of our community for no monetary reward.

This is why it was so disappointing to see Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) succumb to the divisive Woke agenda.

At the exact moment many lifesavers and lifesaving clubs throughout Australia are focused on busy summer period that sees countless Australians flock to our beaches to beat the heat, SLSA distributed its Diverse Gender Factsheet for Surf Life Saving Clubs across the country.

SLSA’s factsheet sets out guidelines for clubs to follow, which includes asking members to ‘retrain your brain’ on topics such as radical gender theory and pronouns, and it opens the door for biological men to compete against women in surf lifesaving competitions.

The mere notion of telling people to retrain their brain is degrading and creepy. Surf lifesavers volunteer their time to train to prevent people from drowning and compete, not to submit to ideological brainwashing.

This new wave of Woke activism is a far cry from the noble origins of surf lifesaving, which was simply to keep people safe on Sydney beaches in response to multiple drownings in the early 20th Century.

Since then, the beach and surf lifesaving have been quintessential aspects of Australian life and culture. This is only possible because lifesavers have been on hand to give up their time, serve their communities, and help keep people safe.

For those who compete in lifesaving competitions, SLSA’s activism risks destroying another rewarding part of life on the sand.

Lifesaving competitions are physically demanding, forcing people of different sexes to compete against each other in events such as beach flag, would be disastrous as it is a high-contact sport.

And if biological men competing in women’s sport is unacceptable for the World Athletics Council and World Aquatics, it should be unacceptable for SLSA to create a scenario where women and girls – who must be volunteers in order to quality – are compelled to compete against men.

SLSA’s factsheet only serves to divide volunteers on the basis of whether they buy into the Woke worldview or if they do not. Although they are only ‘guidelines’, the fact that the request comes from SLSA national leadership sets a clear expectation that they must be followed.

The main priorities of SLSA and state branches should be continuing that tradition and providing adequate funding and support to local lifesaving clubs so that they can keep beaches safe in their communities.

Politicising a community service like lifesaving goes against everything that makes volunteerism such a special part of the Australian way of life.

Surf Life Saving Australia have missed the boat with its Woke memo. Its leadership seem to have forgotten that they are the custodians of an iconic form of Australian volunteerism. Lifesaving is not the vehicle to drown us in radical activism.

Saxon Davidson is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs and is a volunteer surf lifesaver.

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This article was originally published in The Spectator Australia on 22 December 2023 and was written by the author in their capacity as a contributor for that publication.  It has been republished on the IPA website with permission. The views expressed are those of the author alone.

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