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Marine Rescue NSW all-female crews inspire women to help save lives on the water

Marine Rescue NSW is encouraging women to volunteer at their local base with Sydney’s Port Jackson unit now having the agency’s first regular all-female crew while a group of incredible women has been assembled at Jervis Bay to operate the unit’s lead vessel off Huskisson for the very first time.

L to R: Nicole Bowden, Sophie Baker and Julie Barkworth

Since being appointed Port Jackson Unit Commander in 2017, Greg Urand dreamed of assembling Marine Rescue’s first ever all-female crew and with the enthusiasm of volunteers Julie Barkworth, Sophie Baker and Nicole Bowden, the dream became a reality in January this year.

“It’s been my goal to have an all-female crew, we’ve finally achieved it, it’s something I am very proud of,” Urand said.

“Julie put her hand up when we were looking for a female Master and she was determined to achieve it.”

Barkworth joined the Port Jackson unit in October 2020 and became qualified as leading crew at the beginning of the year, paving the way to head up an all-female crew.

“Julie, Sophie and Nicole are amazing,” Urand said.

“They’re very strong women in their professions and joined the unit with minimal boating experience.

“Sophie was our youngest member ever, joining the unit at just 18, she drove a boat and said you’ve got me for life,” Urand said.

“They have worked incredibly hard to go through all the training and achieve their goals,” the Unit Commander said.

The Port Jackson all-female crew also has two trainees and is rostered for duty once a month.

Just over 25% of Marine Rescue’s 3,296 volunteers across NSW are female with the agency encouraging more women to get involved in its mission of saving lives on the water.

Marine Rescue NSW offers a variety of volunteer positions and training from coxswain, crew, radio operating and fundraising.

On the state’s South Coast, the Jervis Bay unit recently assembled its first ever all-female crew for a patrol and marine drill exercise to mark International Women’s Day.

L to R: Kristy Jones, Janet Boardman, Fran Koster, Cheryl Fogarty and Jean Cane

Experienced sailor Jean Cane was Master onboard JB 41 with crew members Fran Koster, Janet Boardman, Cheryl Fogarty and Kristy Jones.

Cane said it was a great experience to showcase the unit’s strength and hopes it inspires more women to join Marine Rescue NSW.

“The males in the base, everybody in the base have helped train me as a female on the crew.

“People give a lot of time, they get out there at weekends and do extra time at night.

“Both male and female, very supportive bunch of people, you’ll always get help when you’re going through your training, it’s great,” Cane said.

Illawarra Zone Duty Operations Manager Stuart Massey was in awe of the women who crewed Jervis Bay 41.

“It’s a complex boat, the women handled that without any problems whatsoever and it’s always impressive to see a group of women on the water like that volunteering to save lives,” he said.

Massey said Marine Rescue NSW offers the same opportunities for all volunteers.

“Whether that be on the boats, whether that be in the radio room or whether that be helping us with fundraising, the more people we have in there the safer the mariners of NSW will be,” he said.

“I would encourage women to get involved with Marine Rescue NSW, give them the opportunity to get out on the water, help other people out there if the need arises and even look at an opportunity to progress a maritime career,” Massey said.