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Marine Rescue NSW volunteers named finalists for prestigious Emergency Services Awards

Five Marine Rescue NSW volunteers have been named finalists across two categories for the 2024 Rotary Districts of NSW Emergency Services Community Awards (RESCA).

(L to R) Marine Rescue Port Jackson Training Systems Officer Kelli Jovanovski, Marine Rescue NSW Commissioner Alex Barrell and Marine Rescue Port Jackson Training Officer Sophie Baker at the RESCA finalists announcement

Marine Rescue Merimbula Deputy Unit Commander Sonia Teston, Eden’s Nancy Weatherman, Port Jackson Training Systems Officer Kelli Jovanovski and long-serving Port Macquarie volunteer David Bigeni are finalists for the Marine Rescue NSW agency award while Port Jackson Training Officer Sophie Baker is in the running for the Dot Hennessy OAM Emergency Services Youth Scholarship.

The Marine Rescue NSW volunteers have been recognised for their service and commitment to saving lives on the water and boating safety in NSW.

Marine Rescue NSW Commissioner Alex Barrell said he is extremely proud of the agency’s finalists.

“Marine Rescue NSW is fortunate to have more than 3,400 dedicated volunteers and this group typifies what our volunteers are about and their selfless mission of saving lives on the water.

“Boaters should feel reassured that our volunteers have got their back and it is wonderful to see this group recognised as RESCA finalists.

“Their skill and dedication to the boaters of NSW and their local communities is greatly appreciated and I congratulate them all on being recognised as finalists,” Commissioner Barrell said.

The winner of the Marine Rescue NSW agency award and the Dot Hennessy OAM Emergency Services Youth Scholarship will be announced at the RESCA ceremony at Bankstown Sports Club on August 10.

Marine Rescue NSW is a volunteer based not-for-profit professional organisation dedicated to keeping boaters safe on the water and supporting local communities.

Sonia Teston – Marine Rescue Merimbula

Sonia Teston is the Deputy Unit Commander at Marine Rescue Merimbula where she has demonstrated exceptional leadership and dedication during her nine years of service. Her outstanding contributions have significantly influenced the unit’s growth and operational effectiveness.

Since joining Marine Rescue Merimbula in 2015, Sonia has quickly risen through the ranks, holding various positions such as Unit Commander, Roster Officer, Admin Officer, and Membership Officer. She is also a qualified Marine Rescue NSW Coxswain and Radio Operator with her skills and professionalism coming to the fore during numerous rescue missions.

Sonia’s leadership has been instrumental in doubling the unit’s membership to 82 members, with a notable increase in female membership to 36%. As the first female Unit Commander and Deputy Unit Commander at Merimbula, she serves as a role model and mentor for aspiring female members.

Beyond her primary role, Sonia has assisted in emergency operations during the 2019-2020 bushfires and the 2020 and 2022 floods. Her efforts were recognised with a Premier’s Bushfire Citation and National Emergency Medal.

Nancy Weatherman – Marine Rescue Eden

Nancy Weatherman has demonstrated exceptional service and leadership during her 10 years with Marine Rescue Eden where she currently holds the position of Deputy Unit Commander. As a qualified Radio Operator, Nancy has provided vital communications support to the boating community and rescue agencies in the strategically important region of Twofold Bay and beyond.

Throughout her service, Nancy has previously held the role of Unit Commander and is instrumental in fundraising, community engagement, and member recruitment. Her efforts were particularly crucial during the transition of the Eden unit from a Radio Base to managing its first rescue vessel in 2022.

Nancy has been actively involved in Marine Rescue Eden’s Building & Facilities upgrade subcommittee and consistently participates in local community events and initiatives. Her leadership and mentorship have been invaluable, particularly in supporting and encouraging the development of female members within Marine Rescue NSW.

Kelli Jovanovski – Marine Rescue Port Jackson

Kelli Jovanovski is the Training Systems Officer at Marine Rescue Port Jackson where she demonstrates exceptional dedication and service above self. Balancing her demanding profession in a full-time senior government position, and a household of young girls, Kelli consistently goes above and beyond for her community.

Kelli manages the training records and course bookings for over 120 members at the Port Jackson unit. She attends numerous meetings, travels extensively, and works tirelessly to ensure the accuracy and timeliness of the unit’s training documentation.

Sophie Baker – Marine Rescue Port Jackson

(L to R) Marine Rescue Port Jackson’s Kelli Jovanovski and Sophie Baker

Sophie Baker is an enthusiastic and warm young woman with an incredible drive to help.

Sophie was just 18 when she joined Marine Rescue Port Jackson in January 2020. She quickly earned her crew rating and was part of the unit’s first ever all-female crew which began regular rostered shifts early last year.

In 2022, Sophie became the youngest ever unit Training Officer in the Central Zone.

David Bigeni – Marine Rescue Port Macquarie

David Bigeni, a dedicated volunteer with Marine Rescue NSW since 2012, currently serves as a Skipper, Trainer, and Maintenance Manager at the Port Macquarie unit. His exceptional contributions ensure the unit’s operational readiness and safety.

With extensive experience, David maintains and operates four vessels, a vehicle, and all equipment. He trains future skippers on bar crossings, towing, emergency drills, and first aid. In 2021, he deployed to assist with flood rescues for 15 days and later helped rebuild homes. David has completed hundreds of rescues and saved countless lives during his service with Marine Rescue Port Macquarie.

Passionate about giving back, David assists organisations like the Lions Club and supports community events such as the Ironman and the Port Macquarie Rowing Club’s 3 River Run. Known for his dedication, he often spends seven days a week at the unit to ensure the best outcomes.