Speech to Parliament: Joseph James Seddon

On 16 November, our community lost a great man. Joseph James Seddon, or Joe, as he was affectionately known, lost his battle with cancer. The name Joe Seddon is synonymous with surf-lifesaving in Sydney, in particular in his beloved Coogee. Joe made a long-lasting contribution to surf-lifesaving, swimming and water safety in the Sydney community.

Joe joined the Coogee Surf Life Saving Club in 1962 and gained his bronze medallion in 1963. He quickly gained a reputation as a leader and a doer within that club and within the wider community. He is the only person in Coogee surf club to have served as president, secretary, treasurer and club captain, and he contributed 40 years on the management committee of the club. Joe received the club's honour blazer in 1968 for outstanding achievement and was made a life member in 1982 and a club governor in 2000.

But Joe's influence and contribution went well beyond Coogee surf club. He was involved in the establishment of the offshore rescue boat around Sydney. He was also very influential in raising the initial funding for and establishing the Westpac Helicopter Rescue Service, which has saved countless lives up and down the coastlines of Australia. He was a director of that great organisation for 10 years.

He was involved in the Randwick and Coogee Amateur Swimming Club. In 1974, when a severe storm hit Sydney and damaged Wylie's Baths at Coogee, he was instrumental in working with government to have funding provided to rebuild those baths, and he became a trustee of the newly established trust and sat on that trust for 25 years. He was the National Treasurer of Surf Life Saving Australia for five years and a trustee of the State Sports Centre of New South Wales.

He was made a life member of the Randwick District surf clubs and was a visionary in Coogee in terms of his foresight in being instrumental in admitting female members to Coogee Surf Life Saving Club in 1981. At the time he was criticised by many older male members of the club, but nowadays 50 per cent of the membership of the Coogee surf club are women.

In the early 1990s, when the 2007 centenary of Coogee surf club was approaching, Joe took on the massive task of researching and compiling a history of Coogee Surf Life Saving Club. He reviewed minutes, undertook interviews of members, sought out documents, went through all existing newspaper clippings on Coogee surf club and combed the state and national libraries. The result was one of the finest pictorial and written histories of an important institution in our community. It is not just the history of Coogee surf club; it is also a wonderful overview and history of the development of our area, of our community and, importantly, of our culture. That important record now sits in the National Library.

In 2013 he received the Premier's award for service to the community. On the weekend, Joe Seddon was laid to rest in that great tradition of surf-lifesaving, with his ashes being scattered on the sea off Coogee Beach. Hundreds of community members lined the shores, and out on the ocean were hundreds of members of the surf-lifesaving community in boats, on boards and skis, but also hovering above was the Westpac rescue helicopter, which Joe had been instrumental in establishing.

I represent a special part of Australia. I often say it is the people who make the difference in our community. Our community is fortunate to have many great leaders. Joe Seddon was one of those great leaders. I offer my condolences to his family—to Merilyn, to Tony, to Jimmy and to Anne. May he rest in peace.


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