At the last state election in October 2020, the Queensland Government committed to a programme to integrate the two marine rescue organisations in the state – Volunteer Marine Rescue Queensland and the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard Association, into a single entity.
This decision was made following a comprehensive Blue Water review of the volunteer marine rescue arrangements within the state, and a working group was formed to develop options for a contemporary volunteer marine rescue model in Queensland.
The working group includes rank and file members from both organisations to ensure appropriate volunteer collaboration during the process and is under the umbrella of Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES).
The Minister recently announced the name of the new group as Marine Rescue Queensland, with the name chosen by 87% of the almost 1,000 volunteers that responded to the name survey. This year Flotillas and Squadrons will be eligible for a $10,000 grant for frontline marine rescue services, to assist with building emergency response capability.
In the overall scheme of our operation that is a very small step; for example, we have used over 59,000 litres of fuel over the last year. But it is a step in the right direction towards more realistic funding for marine rescue units in the state.
Obviously, integration requires the completion of a number of aspects, such as Finance, Safety, Capability, Volunteers, Community Focus, and Fleet including vessel selection, and work is progressing well. As an example, the first contract for a vessel build and purchase has been accepted, and there will be more this year even in advance of the formal integration.
Timing for the staged transition looks like commencing in 2024. We look forward to the finalisation of a process that we see as being good for marine rescue services, the boating and island communities, and the state in general.
In the interim, it is business as usual for us here in the Whitsundays. The support we get from the community and businesses here is fantastic, and we are confident that will continue under the new organisation.
Most of our dedicated volunteers joined VMR as a means to put something back into the community, and I am sure the same applies to AVCGA.
We do not see any change to that under a new organisation that may have a different name but with the same aim of providing rescue services to the boating and island communities of Queensland, hopefully with a more realistic funding and support model similar to that which now applies in other states. We are very optimistic for the future as our activation levels continue to surge.
VMRW membership is cheap insurance at just $80. You can join online at https://vmrwhitsundays.com.au/join/ and your membership helps to keep us going in case you need us.