They are a group of people who are at times forgotten by the community, but the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard plays an important part in marine safety and when rough seas threaten your vessel, you want a person like Tony Barker on your side.
State Member for Caloundra Mark McArdle this week congratulated Tony Barker on being elected Deputy Squadron Commodore after six years serving our community as Commander of the QF4 Caloundra Coast Guard.
Mr Barker began his journey with the Coast Guard more than a decade ago after a friend convinced him to get involved in the service. He quickly accepted an administration role and was later elected Commander.
“I have served three 2-year terms as the Commander which is the maximum under the Constitution. I could have asked for an extension but I thought it time someone else had the opportunity.” Mr Barker said.
“At our May Squadron Board Meeting I was elected Deputy Squadron Commodore and started in the position the same day. This new position will take me away from the day-to-day responsibility of the flotilla and give me a broader role overseeing the activities of five flotillas on the Coast.” Mr Barker said.
Mr Barker spoke with Mr McArdle about the risks and rewards of being a member of the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard and offered his advice to people considering becoming a member.
“Anytime you are on a boat and you engage in on-water activities - if you are not trained, prepared, healthy or fit for the job you are at risk.” Mr Barker said
“Crossing the bar can be quite dangerous and the bar demands respect.”
“Once you get outside [the bar] into different sea conditions the risk increases exponentially. You must follow the training you have been given, read the circumstances and listen to the advice of your skippers in order to do the job that needs to be done.” Mr Barker said.
“Mr Barker experiences after 10 years with the Coast Guard will be immensely important to his new role as Commodore.” Mr McArdle said.
“Everything he has learnt working on the water, he can now use when working with the individual flotillas to get better resources and a better outcome.” Mr McArdle said.
In speaking of assisting vessels in distress Mr Barker said with the decision made to put to sea Flotilla volunteers’ focus is on locating the target vessel and returning its occupants to safety. He said members have a healthy respect for the sea, and are trained to read conditions and use them to their advantage in undertaking any assist, in any conditions.
“Perhaps one of our most unusual “passengers” was a 5-foot Eastern Brown snake that attempted to board a Rescue Vessel to the surprise of the members aboard.” Mr Barker said.
The Coast Guard offers a variety of volunteer positions, many of which do not require on-water activities. Mr Barker said that anyone considering membership should reach out to find a role that fits in with their skill set and availability.
“Come talk to us, don’t hold back. With all the commitments people have it can be difficult to fit this kind of volunteering in. People just need to come to speak to us because there are many ways to help out.” Mr Barker said.
“It is really important to remember that while there is a strong public focus on boats and boat crew we can’t put a boat on the water without the funds to put it there and a Radio Operator on duty. Our volunteers provide us with that. We are continually looking for Radio Operators and people who just want to fundraise and not want to be boat crew.” Mr Barker said.
“The next generation of Coast Guards in Caloundra really have great role models to look up to and to be guided by” Mr McArdle said.
“Marine activities are a big part of our lifestyle here in Caloundra and our community is lucky to have someone like Mr Barker overseeing our safety on the water.” Mr McArdle said.
Each year Coast Guard volunteers perform thousands of activations. Rescues range from assisting sinking vessels, vessels with flat batteries and other mechanical problems, vessels that have run aground and often towing these disabled vessels back to safe harbour.