Apollo Bay Surf Life Saving Club is currently planning for the full-scale redevelopment of its outdated clubhouse and is in the process of securing the additional $7 million in funding to allow this to take place.
The current facility was built in the 1970s when club had a small, mostly male membership. Membership has grown year on year for the past decade and now stands at 700, with 50 percent of those members being female. The building also has no disabled access and limited storage, hampering the timely deployment of assets in the advent of an emergency.
The redevelopment campaign began in February 2019 and in May the Club secured a $1 million commitment in seed funding towards the rebuild from the re-elected Federal Government.
The clubhouse’s role as a core Apollo Bay community asset — serving a broad range of needs including public safety, education and town gathering point —is central to the redevelopment.
The recognition of these broader roles, and the increasing number of deaths by drowning in Victoria, has lead to the formation of an innovative alliance with the Apollo Bay P12 College (a leader in Victorian school surf education for the past 20 years) and the development of a proposal to establish the clubhouse, and complementary accommodation on the school site, as centre for excellence in blue water safety and skills training.
Dubbed the Victorian Blue Ocean Safety and Skills (VBOSS) centre the redeveloped clubhouse would still fulfill its vital Life Saving Victoria training and patrol roles and obligations but would also become a year-round venue for the training of state and national school groups and community organisations. These groups would be accommodated at the College and trained at the clubhouse.
VBOSS is Victoria’s first dedicated ocean safety and awareness centre, focusing on educating Victorian secondary school students and community groups in vital ocean safety skills. It is a community driven initiative of the Apollo Bay Surf Life Saving Club and the Apollo Bay P12 College and is actively supported by Life Saving Victoria.
Saving lives. In the last year alone, Victoria experienced a record number of deaths by drowning (43 since July 2020) — most of which occurred on the coast. Many of these deaths could have been prevented if people, and the Victorian community in general, had a greater understanding of how and when to safely interact with the ocean. This is crucial, given only 67 of Victoria’s 700 beaches are patrolled by lifesavers.
Independent economic analysis shows VBOSS will provide a $32.8 million boost to the local and Victorian regional economy and create more than 70 jobs, including more than 12 ongoing permanent trainer and management positions, diversifying the region’s employment base.
Students and community groups from across Victoria and Australia will be accommodated at onsite cabin facilities at the Apollo Bay P12 College and undertake their training at the redeveloped Apollo Bay Surf Life Saving Club facilities and at the College’s indoor aquatic centre if required. Importantly — after the initial development funding — VBOSS will be self-sustaining with fees from users underwriting its operation and future development.
Once fully operational it is estimated more than 3000 students a year will be trained in essential ocean safety awareness skills, under the auspices of guidelines developed in conjunction with Life Saving Victoria.
VBOSS will be a platform for students from all of Victoria’s diverse multicultural communities to take part in ocean safety and awareness training programs. The VBOSS concept has already received the backing of the State’s leading multicultural organisations. Historically, we know people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are five times more likely to drown, making up a third of drowning fatalities in Victoria each year.
‘Tomorrow’s surf leaders today’ is the motto espoused by VBOSS. The centre, its staff and programs will seek to foster and develop youth engagement and leadership. A core element will be the development of female leadership role models, as Life Saving Victoria feedback shows women seek to play a more active role in this area.
Apollo Bay, located midway along Victoria’s iconic Great Ocean Road, is home to one of the widest and safest training beaches in Australia, with examples of most surf conditions within close proximity. VBOSS is a ‘natural fit’ for the region. Currently, more than 22 schools a year from across Victoria visit the Apollo Bay and the Otway region for outdoor education activities. When you consider the potential for these visitors, and many others like them, to utilise VBOSS to develop lifelong ocean training skills and reduce their risk of drowning and injury, the benefits are invaluable. Apollo Bay has an extensive network of community support services including a hospital, ambulance base, police, surf rescue and the only navigable all weather harbour on the Great Ocean Road.
A significant amount of planning, design and consultation work has already been undertaken or is underway. ABSLSC has secured $1 million in seed funding from the Federal Government for the redevelopment of the surf club building and Victorian Deputy Premier and Minister for Education James Merlino has greenlighted the usage of land at the Apollo Bay P12 College site for group accommodation. We are now in discussion with both State and Federal Governments to secure the remaining $14.4 million dollars to complete the capital works on both sites. If this is received in 2022 VBOSS would be operational by late 2023.
Concept drawings of the new clubhouse and school accommodation have been prepared and initial site surveys and preparatory works at the surf club site have been undertaken.
The redevelopment and VBOSS model have been backed by Victorian Deputy Premier and Minister for Education James Merlino, Member for Western Victoria and member of the State Cabinet Gayle Tierney, Life Saving Victoria, Colac Otway Shire Council, Federal Member for Corangamite Libby Coker, Member for Polwarth Richard Riordan and Great Ocean Road Health (see Letters of Support below).
Discussions are underway with all tiers of Government (local, state and federal) with regard securing the $14.44 million (clubhouse $7.04 million and school accommodation $7.4 million) required complete the project.
The general awareness and communication campaign remains ongoing as do discussions with the Federal and Victorian Governments as well as Life Saving Victoria aimed at securing full funding for the project.