North West marine rescue groups gain on-the-ground support

Alicia PereraPilbara News
DFES Pilbara and Kimberley marine district manager Bec Benson with Dampier Sea Rescue commander Aaron Porteous, vice commander Bruce Hardwicke and crew member Jo McGill.
Camera IconDFES Pilbara and Kimberley marine district manager Bec Benson with Dampier Sea Rescue commander Aaron Porteous, vice commander Bruce Hardwicke and crew member Jo McGill. Credit: Alicia Perera

Volunteer marine rescue groups in the North West have welcomed a boost in on-ground support with the appointment of a district marine manager for the region who will be based in Karratha.

Bec Benson will provide day-to-day reporting, training and funding support to the eight volunteer marine groups of the Pilbara and Kimberley after stepping into a newly created regional district marine manager role with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.

Ms Benson, who took up the position in October but only moved to Karratha several weeks ago, said she would be working to support and promote the work of local volunteers.

“I’m looking forward to helping marine rescue and the volunteers become bigger and better and a lot more well-known throughout the community,” she said.

“That includes engaging more volunteers, increasing training, renewing their equipment and upgrading boats and technology.”

“Since the minister announced a substantial funding increase for marine rescue recently, there’s a lot of exciting projects to get them to be a really well-known and understood emergency service.”

DFES previously employed two district marine managers for WA, both of whom were based in Perth, but a government funding boost for volunteer marine groups last year allowed the number of roles to be expanded to four, including three in the regions — based in Karratha, Geraldton and Albany — and one in Perth.

DFES marine services manager Mark Eatts said with 31 of the 37 volunteer marine groups in WA based in regional areas, the department hoped moving support positions to the regions would make their services more accessible and responsive.

“Marine managers will have a stronger focus on volunteer groups, be able to provide improved support to individual volunteers, and increase the frequency and quality of the training delivered,” he said.

Ms Benson, who has a background in the North West having grown up in the Pilbara towns of Pannawonica, Onslow and Exmouth, said so far the response from local groups had been “overwhelmingly positive”.

“The groups have already seen lots of benefits of having a district manager in their region,” she said.

“They’re the one on the ground doing the work, so I’m here to help support them to do that and do it to the best of their ability and make their ideas come to fruition.”

Ms Benson will be responsible for rescue groups in Dampier, Port Walcott, Port Hedland, Broome, Derby, the East Kimberley and One Arm Point (Bardi Jawi Rangers).

Exmouth Volunteer Marine Sea Rescue will be supported by Gascoyne and Mid West district marine manager, Simon Miller, who is based in Geraldton.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails