Making a difference in the community

Bilinga Surf Club president and surf lifesaving official John Hamrey with his daughter Paris.

Bilinga Surf Life Saving club is embracing the aging population surrounding their club first creating a coffee nook and now looking to institute the highly popular Silver Salties program.

Club president John Hamrey said the club was hoping to get their first Silver Salties event up and running before Christmas and urged interested community members to keep an eye on the club’s facebook and social media programs.

Silver Salties is a physical activity and social connections initiative for older Australians designed by Surf Life Saving Australia in conjunction with Surf Life Saving Clubs and funded by Sport Australia’s Move It Aus – Better Ageing Grants Program.

The program is aimed primarily at the 65 plus age includes all sorts of packages including yoga and walk and talk activities.

“We recently put in a coffee nook for members and community,” he said.

He said while other club’s are close to shops and other amenities Bilinga was near the airport and open spaces between North Kirra and Tugun and in a sort of “no man’s land”.

“So we have provided that coffee shop experience for the community to enjoy,” John explained.

“It has been an immense success. People are coming there now and using the grass area, the open space. It’s been great for those people around us – they’ve come to us and said it’s about time – there has been no negativity from the general community. They really love it. It’s not a big venue but it just provides a meeting place for people.

“Our focus is on our older population. There are a lot of holiday units and retirees in the area.”

“For that reason we are looking to institute a Silver Salties program for older members and the community aged 65 plus.

“Covid has been pretty harsh on people who live alone or couples who need the connection with the outside world – that’s what we hope to do. And with the coffee shop there it’s a good meeting place. I want to grow the community membership for the club and also give older population somewhere to go to.

“We don’t have to wait for the Silver Salties program either – we can take older members on and they can become associate members of the club. We want to get people involved in, they can help out with the barbecues, they can come down and help with the nippers. It gives them some sort of connection with the club.”

John himself is now in his 60s though he has had a long association with Bilinga and with the Surf Lifesaving movement. A surf sports senior official and commentator these days John is passionate about the SLSC and his community.

John first joined the club back in 1971 as a young 15-year-old before leaving to join the Queensland Police Service and concentrate on playing Rugby League.

“I travelled around the state during my career as a police officer and then transferred back in 2011 from Yeppoon and I went back down to the club,” he said.

“I always said to myself if I ever come back to Brisbane or the Gold Coast, I would be knocking at the door at Bilinga so I’ve been involved for 10-11 years this time.”

“When I was at Yeppoon I was officer in charge there in the police and my kids dragged me down to the surf club. I began that association back with Surf Life Saving in 97-98 and got involved with junior activities. I became the president of the club and received life membership. Back down here again, all my children have grown up but my daughter patrols with me, she’s now a lawyer – my son’s Mitchell and Ryan haven’t joined back in but Paris has stayed with me. I have a strong passion for Bilinga, it’s a great little club, it’s a family orientated club, we’re old school – old style surf club no fancy poker machines but we try to maintain a family friendly environment for those members who want an experience like that.”

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