Accolade for lifesaver

(Supplied) 202503_01

Ash Bolt

Bellbrae’s Paul Lunny has been keeping swimmers safe for more than 50 years, and that commitment to duty was recognised with an Emergency Services Medal this week.

Living near the beach in Port Melbourne as a 15 year old, Mr Lunny never expected to dedicate so much of his life to life saving when he signed up as junior lifesaver at Sandridge Life Saving Club.

“Within a year, I was on the committee and it’s just grown from there,” he said.

At 21, he joined the Anglesea club in order to compete in surf skiing, but he said it was lifesaving side of the club that kept him involved.

“My main drive was the lifesaving and the emergency response side of it,” he said.

“It sounds daggy but I think we have an obligation to pay it back to the community and this was something I could do.”

Over his lifetime, Mr Lunny has served as a paid life saver along many different beaches and worked in senior roles within Life Saving Victoria.

He spent more than 15 years running lifesaving operations along the Surf Coast until retiring last season, but has since rejoined Life Saving Victoria as the area manager for the west, covering the coast from Geelong all the way to Portland.

Mr Lunny said he felt “uncomfortable” accepting the award, but it was a proud achievement.

He also said it was equally as important for his family, who had “felt the cost” of his commitment to life saving and supported him along the way.

Mr Lunny said his favourite part of the journey had been the camaraderie and friendships he had made on the way.

“That’s the nature of lifesaving, like any of the emergency services, we’re all a tight-knit group and lifelong friends, which means you have some of the very best and very worst times of your life,” he said.

One moment that still stays with Mr Lunny was a rescue when he was 18, where he was involved in a resuscitation of an eight-year-old boy, who unfortunately didn’t survive.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of emergency situations and resuscitations since … but that one has always stuck with me,” he said.

“You know you’re doing the best you can and sometimes it isn’t enough and that’s hard to deal with.

“You have to face it and accept that it’s the nature of the job and keep going.

“But on the other hand, when you do have success, it is such an unbelievable feeling.

“There’s no better feeling than knowing you’ve had a significant impact on someone’s life.

“And you don’t always hear about it, but this is happening somewhere along our coast every single day.

“It’s an amazing group of people to be involved with.”