Back to the Beginning
Wednesday December 10th, 1958 was a tragic day for the Port Campbell community. A Colac family the Brasells – had set out on a fishing expedition at Beacon Steps, just outside and to the left of Port Campbell Bay, and only a few hundred metres from the centre of town.
The tragedy unfolded when the son was swept off the cliff ledge by a large wave. His mother jumped in to rescue him, while a family member ran back to town to get help. Watching his wife and son struggle in the large swells, the husband then followed in a vain attempt to save them. At this stage, townsfolk were congregating on the cliff edge, frustrated and helpless to the family’s plight. This tragic accident was a catalyst for change and spurred discussion regarding the need for a volunteer rescue organisation in Port Campbell.
A seed was planted
The following summer, members of the Warrnambool Surf Lifesaving Club were invited by Keith Gray, John Younis and Ron Street to demonstrate a reel, line and belt rescue – a fundamental technique employed by the surf lifesaving fraternity in Australia – at the annual Waarre/Sherbrook Rive Gala Day on January 26, 1959.
As the belt-man, Warrnambool member Peter O’Rorke was in for a demonstration to remember. A big sea was running with a strong drift from East to west. With his belt strapped in place, the reel manned and his swimmer briefed on where to head for, Peter plunged into the Sherbrooke beach break to execute the display. The rescue went to plan and was well received by its audience. But at the conclusion of the day a discussion was held, with the clear message that Sherbrooke beach should not be used for swimming.
Buoyed by the experience, Keith Gray – subsequent founder of Port Campbell SLSC went on to the join the Warrnambool SLSC, gaining his Bronze Medallion on March 19, 1961. Spending two years there, Keith recognised the numerous benefits that such a club would bring to the Port Campbell community. Canvessing the idea with local residents, his proposal was well supported and a meeting was scheduled for August 7, 1963 at the ‘Karoa Café’ owned by the Younis family.