The Lifesavers with Pride (LWP) group is launching a new scholarship promoting Surf Live Saving as a safe space for the LGBTIQ community.

LWP, Australia’s national group of LGBTIQ+ surf lifesavers, is launching the Proud Beaches Scholarship, which aims to encourage LGBTIQ people to feel safe, welcome and valued at their local surf lifesaving club, and aims to remove financial barriers to becoming a lifesaver.

Anyone over the age of thirteen—regardless of gender, physical ability and culture—is encouraged to apply for the scholarship, which covers the cost of training for either the Surf Rescue Certificates, or the Bronze Medallion for people over 15.

Allies and others outside the LGBTIQ community are also welcome to apply and demonstrate why they should be a recipient.

President of LWP, Gary Driscoll, said Lifesaving Australia prides itself on inclusivity and emphasised the importance of upholding diversity by removing financial constraints.

“Lifesaving is a welcoming, progressive and inclusive organisation, and we encourage the LGBTIQ community to join,” said Driscoll.

“Completing the Bronze Medallion course is the first step towards patrolling the beach, and we are keen to ensure cost isn’t a barrier to LGBTIQ recruits becoming qualified lifesavers.”

Applications for the scholarship are open all year round, as the northern part of Australia runs an opposite season to the south of Australia.

Applications for Proud Beaches Scholarships in the southern states are currently running for the October to April surf season, and the northern tropics will run from May to September in order to avoid deadly ocean stingers. 

Proud Beaches has already been doing grassroots work to ensure community inclusion in lifesaving, after holding their Proud Beaches Forum on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York earlier this year. 

LGBTIQ lifesavers from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia were all invited to share their experiences within lifesaving and the sporting world at the event.

Guest speakers at the forum included Pride In Sport’s Beau Nowell,  Proud2Play’s Bowie Stower and former lifesaver and boat rower, Andrew Purchase.

The battle for better beach-inclusivity has been largely uphill for the LGBTIQ community, after renowned gay ‘beats’, such as Marks Park in south Bondi, became the place of many homophobic attacks and murders of gay men in the 1970s to the 1990s.

In October last year, Waverley Council and ACON partnered together to commission and install a memorial art piece in the Tamarama park to acknowledge the gay men targeted in homophobic attacks. 

ACON’s historical violence and memorial project manager Michael Atkinson said that gay culture has a significant historical presence at Australia’s beaches and that LGBTIQ people have made an enormous contribution to Bondi’s current atmosphere.

“Today Bondi is a popular place for many LGBTQI people to live and they contribute to general civic life there through their art, businesses, culture and of course through their history,” he said.

“Marks Park has been a community hub for many years. After Mardi Gras it was a really popular destination, people would go to the park after the parade and hang out with other friends, play music and watch the sun come up as a community.”

Community members and allies who wish to apply for the Proud Beaches Scholarship should contact their local surf club to find out when courses begin, and how to enrol.

For more information about the scholarship or LWP’s work at establishing an LGBTIQ Lifesaving community, visit lifesaverswithpride.com.au.

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