In November 2022, LG Electronics Australia recognised Lee as a hero in her local community of Newcastle, NSW for her ongoing dedication and support to educate people about surf lifesaving and helping keep the community safe through rescues and training.
Lee Howes is the Chief Training Officer at Hunter Surf Lifesaving NSW, an organisation dedicated to saving lives, preventing the loss of life and building better communities through surf lifesaving, training courses and promoting the interests of safety on the beaches.
We sat down with Lee to learn more about her story and how she has made an impact on her community through Hunter Surf Lifesaving NSW.
LG: What inspired you to give back in your community?
LH: I’ve always felt very strongly about volunteering. I feel that we live such a privileged life here in Australia and giving back to the community is just a small way of acknowledging that. Volunteering keeps you connected with the community and introduces you to new people and experiences and hopefully you can help people along the way.
LG: How did you come up with the concept?
LH: Newcastle beach is a very busy beach and the open and unprotected nature of it means that inexperienced swimmers and beginners are always at risk of harm or drowning. Hunter Surf Lifesaving NSW was not my concept, but I educate people about surf lifesaving, and I am very passionate about making people aware of the dangers of living by the sea and giving them strategies to survive in the surf.
I obtained my Bronze Medallion in 2007 and absolutely loved it. I then completed a Master’s with the Newcastle crew and I loved the fitness required to be a good surf competitor. The more patrols I did, I realised how important it was to have qualified and capable surf lifesavers on the beach. I completed a few more awards including my basic beach management and soon had my own patrol.
My husband and I eventually took over the bronze training. I come from a teaching background, so it was easy for me to transition to a trainer at the club. Since then, we’ve been running training courses for the past 15 years.
LG: What results have you achieved so far?
LH: I have been training bronze and surf rescue groups for over 15 years. During this time, we have educated and trained hundreds of people about surf survival and vital first aid, which hopefully has helped keep them and others safe in the community. It is an extremely valuable course as it teaches people to be lifesavers, how to deal with the surf, how to help others and prevent drowning.
I have so many great memories from surf lifesaving. I have won medals at State, Aussies and World Masters Championships. I was also awarded the Hunter Branch Lifesaver of the Year, paddled a board from Sydney to Newcastle as a support crew for Al Metcalf, and have overseen numerous Nutri-Grain events and ocean swims.
LG: Have you come up against any challenges?
LH: Luckily for me, the biggest challenge we face is the surf itself and keeping people safe in an ever-changing environment. The people who join our courses are all keen and willing to learn so that makes it easy to teach. We do deal with people that have different levels of abilities and this where we often need to recognise limitations and the different capabilities of our trainees to ensure they are safe and making the most out of all our courses.
LG: What’s next for you and your initiative?
LH: I am constantly looking for people to continue the training we do, and mentoring is a big part of that. We mentor a lot of people and we would love to continue this legacy and train young people to eventually take over our role in the future. We aim to encourage young people to see the value in giving back to the community and taking on roles to help others.
LG: What does being named an ‘LG Local Legend’ mean to you?
LH: This was a huge surprise and I am very humbled by the accolade. I help because I love it and it keeps me active and involved with a vibrant community. We put in a lot of hours, but I truly believe in what we do, and it is a privilege not a chore.
I hope this award will help show others the worth in giving back to the community not for the accolade but for the reward of helping others to achieve their goals.
LG Electronics Australia would like to say thank you to Lee Howes for his tireless contribution to his community and support he provides to educate people about surf lifesavings. For more information about Lee’s mission, visit www.hsls.org.au.