Aussie style nippers clubs for Israel

March 4, 2015 by Roz Tarszisz
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At an Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (AICC) function, NSW Premier outlined the Liberals platforms for the upcoming elections…and plans to lead a delegation to Israel.

But before he spoke, it was the turn of the CEO of The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies Vic Alhadeff to tell the 600 guests at the Star Events Centre about an initiative which would take Australian surf lifesavers to Israel to establish a chain of nippers clubs throughout the country and to improve the facilities and training of those responsible for the safety of those using Israel’s beaches.

Here is what Vic Alhadeff had to say…

Vic Alhadeff

Vic Alhadeff

I almost drowned on New Year’s Day 1988, the year of the Bicentenary.

I was a new immigrant to this great country – blissfully unaware of the existence of rips.

It was a magnificent day. My wife, daughters aged 5 and 2 and three families headed to Whale Beach.

I decided to do some body-surfing. Nothing adventurous – just catching waves back to shore.

I discovered I couldn’t stand, so I thought I’d wait for the next wave.

Instead, I found myself in a storm of wild water. Waves were crashing over my head.

I was swallowing water. Struggling to keep my mouth shut. My lungs were bursting.

I told myself repeatedly – Don’t panic. Then I completely panicked.

The people on the beach were 1000 miles away. I raised my arm to attract attention; instead, I lost my balance.

Thoughts of never seeing my wife and children again flashed through my mind; I knew I could only hold my breath for so long.

I actually thought my life was over.

Suddenly, as if he had dropped from above, a lifesaver materialised in front of me. A woman on the beach had got up to buy an ice-cream, thought I may be in trouble and alerted her husband, who alerted a member of the Whale Beach Surf Lifesaving Club.

The last thing I recall was him saying – I’m putting my hand over your mouth, you’re swallowing too much water.

At which point I lost consciousness.

Next thing, I was on the beach, being assisted to a first-aid hut, where I was pumped with fresh oxygen. That was it – other than occasional nightmares, especially after I’ve seen a movie in which there are wild seas.

AICC Chair Jillian Segal

AICC Chair Jillian Segal

Why am I recounting this?

Because an exciting project is about to be launched: Australia’s Surf Life Saving Nipper program is being exported to Israel.   Australian lifesavers are to fly to Israel to train Israelis to become lifesavers and to set up a Nipper program in that country.

There are 62,000 kids in Australia’s Nipper program – learning water safety, how to recognise and get out of rips, administer first aid and resuscitation.

Israel has no such program. 34 Israelis drowned in 2013; in a country one-third the size of Tasmania, that’s a high percentage.

The brainchild behind the scheme came from Steve Rubner, a retired Sydney chartered accountant who, on a visit to Israel, noticed the shortage of professional lifeguards and a need for quality standards. That weekend five people drowned on Israel’s beaches.

Steve, who heads a program called Friends of Life Saving Israel, thought – here’s a great way to save lives while bringing Australian and Israeli culture together.

He approached Israel’s sports authorities and Surf Lifesaving Australia. While he tackled governmental bureaucracy, Doug Hawkins – Sydney Branch director of Nippers and a guru of the Coogee Surf Lifesaving Club, who is here today – was appointed by Surf Lifesaving Australia to lead the Australian operation.

Doug flew to Israel to get the program moving and will return next month to begin training lifesavers in lifesaving techniques and how to run a Nipper program.

He will return again in July with six Australian lifesavers to train a second team and run a camp for kids, teaching water skills, rescue skills, CPR.

Australia’s Ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma has agreed to launch Israel’s Nippers program – and has volunteered to be the first person to be rescued!

The aim is to roll it out on all Israeli beaches by next year.

Australia has 1000 lifeguards and 64,000 volunteers. Israel has 300 lifeguards and no volunteers. On a per capita basis, that number should be 3000. But it requires financial support to make it happen. While there has been generous support to date, the need is still there.

17 per cent of drownings in Israel are Israeli Arabs, and Arab children will participate in the program.

The benefits are obvious:

beach safety; enhanced relations between Israelis and Arabs; exporting Australian culture to Israel; promoting Surf Life Saving Australia as a world leader in its field.

Plus in some clubs 80 per cent of Nippers become lifesavers, while hundreds of Nipper parents get involved.

Our own Premier, Mike Baird, is a qualified lifesaver and an active member of the Queenscliff Surf Life Saving Club. He is also Patron of the Manly, North Steyne and Freshwater Life Saving Clubs.

And – I am delighted to announce – that Premier Mike Baird has agreed to be the Patron of Israel’s Nipper Program!

And – I am delighted to announce – that Premier Mike Baird has agreed to be the Patron of Israel’s Nipper Program!

Premier, we are honoured to have you on board; your support will give the program the imprimatur it deserves.

Friends, I would not be here today were it not for the selfless people who dedicate months of training to keep us safe.

As one who owes his life to such an individual, I thoroughly endorse this great initiative. The flyer on your table has further information on how you can assist.

Premier Mike Baird

Premier Mike Baird

We hope to see the iconic red and yellow international lifesaving colours with Israel’s Star of David emblem tucked in the corner. It will be a great moment in time.”


Premier Baird announced the  NSW Premier’s Perpetual Scholarship as part of the General Sir John Monash Foundation Awards..

On taking on the role of NSW State Treasurer, he found the state about to lose its AAA rating and the economy was flat.  His role was to get the economy moving and make the state competitive for business.

Improved infrastructure and services is something about which he is proud as well as bringing the level of debt down.

“We have momentum back in NSW” said the Premier.

Congratulating Vic Alhadeff on his Life Saving initiative with Israel , Mr Baird said that if he is re-elected, he would like to be the first premier to lead a delegation to Jerusalem (for AICC).


One Response to “Aussie style nippers clubs for Israel”
  1. anne sarzin says:

    Great initiative and full marks to Premier Baird for endorsing this Australia/Israel Nipper program

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