OCTOBER 1 marks the 30th anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons.
At Marine Rescue NSW Port Macquarie Unit, 77-year-old grandmother Pat White is proving that despite the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, age is no barrier to helping your local community.
In 2004, after suffering a workplace injury that prevented her from working, Pat was looking for a new challenge. Despite having no boating experience, she walked into the Port Macquarie unit and joined as a volunteer, undertaking training as a radio operator.
Sixteen years on, Pat is still learning, and is currently undergoing training as a watch officer. She's still doing night shifts as a radio operator too, and loves chatting to the yacht crews sailing up and down the coast.
"Those crews really appreciate the conversation and the reassurance of having us there to keep an eye on them," Pat said.
It was on such a night shift that Pat played a key role in a memorable rescue. A big yacht had lost its mast well offshore, and as the rescue boat raced to assist, she spent all night reassuring the stricken yacht crew and talking to the rescue crew.
Even after her shift had finished, she stayed on the radio to provide support, and to be sure the crew were all back safely.
Pat's advice to older Australians thinking of joining Marine Rescue NSW is simple.
"If you really want to give it a go, give it a go," she said.
"There are great trainers and as my own experience shows, lack of sailing experience is no barrier to getting involved. What's important is a desire to help people, and a preparedness to learn."