SURF Life Saving Queensland is in dangerous waters. Several scandals have put the spotlight on the behaviour of clubbies. A review will focus on culture, but will it clean up surf's reputation?

In 2019, your columnist began reporting on a series of complaints made by whistleblowers including a sex tape involving a minor being shared by a Gold Coast clubbie and footage posted on Facebook by Sunshine Coast surf stars mucking around in shower rooms.

Volunteer surf lifesavers on the Gold Coast. Picture: Brendan Radke.
Volunteer surf lifesavers on the Gold Coast. Picture: Brendan Radke.

A dirt file sent to and tabled by the SLSQ board included allegations of a lifesaver being drunk on duty, sexual harassment and staff kickbacks.

Surf dismissed the dirt file claims as "unsubstantiated", and the locker room competitors got a slap on the wrist. Yet the Coast sex tape seemed not to be in the forefront of their concerns.

SLSQ will still not say if the matter was referred by themselves or the club to police. The female was 15, and had not consented to the mobile phone footage of her with another youth being circulated.

The Bulletin on Tuesday sent questions to SLSQ. A statement was later released announcing a "formal review of specific policies and procedures" with the aim to improve safety.

On Wednesday, a young man appeared in Southport Magistrates Court accused of raping a 21-year-old girl at a Coast clubhouse. There is no suggestion the allegations against him are linked to any other incident.

Red and yellow swimming flags with a Gold Coast skyline as a backdrop. Picture: Brendan Radke.
Red and yellow swimming flags with a Gold Coast skyline as a backdrop. Picture: Brendan Radke.

A surf source told your columnist: "There needs to be a public-funded inquiry. It needs to be external (to the organisation). You bring in a forensic accountant, an auditor, you conduct membership surveys, you ask them about their support for management."

Unlike other sports like rugby league, surf is prone to a pool of competition events for both genders. Visiting competitors need accommodation.

"You have men and females sharing dormitory areas. Then you have juveniles sharing dormitories. It can be a recipe for disaster," the source said.

A concerned parent from a lifesaving family backed the call for an independent cultural review. "I'd like to see management at a club level, when there are concerns, be proactive and not hiding it," he said.

Whistleblowers who have knocked on the door of SLSQ have all complained about confronting "red tape". They are often branded serial pests, their membership not renewed after decades of service.

In the SLSQ annual report, CEO Dave Whimpey wrote about the restructure and welcoming "an all-new senior leadership team, who bring a wealth of experience and expertise in their relevant fields".

SLSQ CEO Dave Whimpey. Picture: Jerad Williams
SLSQ CEO Dave Whimpey. Picture: Jerad Williams

"As we embark on our new Strategic Plan 2020-25, we now look to create true alignment between our volunteers, clubs, branches and state."

SLSQ was given $32 million of your taxpayer money after a pre-election promise by the Palaszczuk government. We continue to reach for our pockets as the volunteers rattle the tins, and our expectation is those good young men and women will be protected by management.

It is a line-in-the-sand moment where the sport must deliver on governance. Only then can SLSQ use the brand "The Glory Days are Back".





Originally published as Surf sex scandals: The need for independent review