Life On The Job

Life on the Job

Life Guard - Edith (nee Kieft) Rowe (1907- 1998)

Edie Kieft 

Edie Kieft
Public Domain)

I was never told why they refused the award except that it was not lady-like for a woman to be a surf lifesaver" Edie (Kieft) Rowe, 1991

Edie Kieft was 15 years old when she qualified for her surf bronze medallion. She was 84 when she finally received the award.

Her Story:

Kieft was a member of the Greenmount Ladies' Club and, in January 1923, she passed the surf lifesaving exam at Tweed Heads and Coolangatta Surf Life Saving Club. Twelve boys had registered for the exam but when one withdrew at the last moment, Edie stepped in. She thought she was doing the club a favour but did more than just make up the numbers, passing the exam easily.
Because Kieft had registered using only her initial and surname, the Surf Bathing Association of New South Wales, the body responsible for acceditation, didn't realise she was a woman. When they discovered that "E" stood for Edith, they withheld the award.
At that time, the association argued that women were not strong enough to operate the lifesaving equipment or to swim in heavy surf. They were therefore banned from qualifying as surf lifesavers.
Edie Kieft was one of thousands of women barred from qualifying as surf lifesavers from 1918 - 1980. When the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia finally admitted women as full members, the Tweed Heads and Coolangatta club requested that Edie Kieft (by now Mrs Rowe and a grandmother) be given her medallion. She was finally awarded her bronze medallion in 1991." (Source: Between the Flags


The Surf Bathing Association of NSW

In 1902 it was against the law to enter the ocean during daylight hours in Australia .[3] A Sydney newspaper editor William Gocher announced his challenge of this law at Manly Beach. Eventually as more people began to challenge the law it was reversed but inexperienced swimmers were having problems with unusual surf conditions such as rip currents and the number of drownings increased.

Groups of volunteers began to patrol the beach to assist and in 1906 the Bondi Beach Surf Bathing Association was formed. The Surf Bathing Association of New South Wales was formed on 18 October 1907 when nine voluntary surf life saving clubs and representatives of the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) met and affiliated to represent the interests of surf lifesavers.
(Source: Wikipedia)

The Bronze Medallion

The Bronze Medallion was introduced in 1910 by the Surf Bathing Association as its measure of proficiency, and is still the basic qualification required to perform surf rescues today. The Association's Bronze Medallion proficiency test included use of the reel, and it was adopted widely in New South Wales and interstate, and remained largely unchanged for decades (NMA (2006) Between the flags: 100 years of surf lifesaving. National Museum of Australia, Canberra. p.7).


ABC - Can We Help?

ABC's Can We Help?

Tweed Daily News: 19 October 2010

Tweed Daily News 19 October 2010
Surf Life Saving Australia - History Fact Sheet #11 

SLSA History Fact Sheet
Royal Life Saving: Bronze Medallion

Royal Life Saving


The Up to Date Magazine!

PrimaryPrimary  MiddleMiddle

ICT Capability Australian Curriculum General Capability: ICT Capability

Critical & Creative ThinkingAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical & Creative Thinking

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy 



1. You are to interview 5 older women [grandparents or elderly neighbours] and one surf boat rower [if possible] about:

  • their life

  • the changes in attitudes to women in jobs and in sports from when they were children to now

  • ask if they would like to see more acknowledgement of women in sports today by more TV coverage

  • Surf boat rower - about how the surf club and the sport may have changed

2. You are to record this interview - either by taping it or making a video.

3. You are to take a photo of that person

4. You are to write an article about this person and submit it to this website - see link below (after getting permission from the person you have interviewed).

Tell Us About Your 'Life On The Job'


5. Using Scoop it, create a magazine about Women Surf Lifesavers and include Edie Kieft!





Prejudice at Australian beaches - still alive?

MiddleMiddle High SchoolSecondary

CriticalAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical and creative thinking

Personal and social capabilityAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability
Intercultural Understanding
Australian Curriculum General Capability: Intercultural Understanding
Ethical Understanding
Australian Curriculum General Capability: Ethical Understanding

Cooperative LearningCooperative Learning Activity

Mecca in Lifeguard's uniform
Mecca Laalaa [in the middle] in her Lifeguard's uniform - the burqini



1. Read Mecca Laalaa's story:

From bikini to 'burqini'

Lifesaver Laalaa rides a wave of support

Mecca Laalaa

Mecca Laalaa
Racism No Way

Racism No Way

2. As a group of 4 - 5 students, discuss the topic: "Prejudice at Australian beaches - still alive?" Has there been a major shift from Edith Kieft's day? Why? Why not?

What do you admire about Mecca Laalaa? 

3. Look at the following video: Surf Life Saving - On The Same Wave



In your group, discuss "What is this promotional video's main focus?" Give reasons. Is it successful in promoting it's message?  

4. Make a poster using to encourage all Australians living near the coast to be part of the SLS - On the Same Wave


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