The first women to become fully fledged life savers in the Illawarra

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From left to right: Kathy Cox, Sue Martin, Myrilyn Endrulis, Dan Meehan, Ron Morris (Maryanne’s uncle and former NSW State Surf Champion with North Wollongong Surf Club) and Maryanne Speirs at Austinmer Beach, 1980.

This year (2020) marks a special chapter in the history of surf life saving in the Illawarra.

During 1980, almost 100 years after the first surf life saving clubs formed in the Illawarra, women became fully fledged life savers when they received their ‘bronze medallion’.

The bronze medallion course provides participants with the skills and knowledge of patrolling and surf awareness in order to be able to participate in lifesaving operations. This is the core award to be a surf lifesaver in Australia.

Surf Life Saving Illawarra deputy president, Dan Meehan said 2020 marks the 40th anniversary of the first women to do their ‘Bronze’ in the Illawarra, enabling them to be “full lifesavers”.

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Sue Martin, Kathy Cox, Jake Kuip (Who did his ‘Instructors’ with the group and has now passed away), Myrilyn Endrulis and Maryanne Spiers outside Austinmer Surf Club 1980

Dan played an important role in the historic milestone. He took the four women through their tests on Austinmer beach in 1980 and he has provided these photos for publication.

“I trained them when I was the ‘beachie’ there,” he said.

“A group (of girls) from Port Kembla were earlier, but they flew up to Coffs Harbour where it was warmer. These (women) were the first to do it in the Illawarra.”

The first four young women who successfully gained their bronze on an Illawarra beach were:

  • Sue Martin
  • Kathy Cox
  • Myrilyn Endrulis
  • Maryanne Spiers

From the four, Sue Martin is the only woman remaining in the region. These days Sue is with Sandon Point Surf Club, and is a theatre nurse at Wollongong Private Hospital.

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The four women and Dan Meehan during the ‘bronze’ test at Austinmer Beach 1980.

Kathy Cox, who was pregnant during her bronze (but no one putting her through the test knew) was an Hawaiian surfer. She has since died while in the United States of America.

Myrilyn Endrulis lives today in Victoria, while Maryanne Spiers became Australia’s first female lifeguard with Wollongong City Council. These days she is in Bilgola Surf Club.

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Maryanne Speirs at the ‘100 years of Lifeguards’ in 2011.

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