Independent and FREE - 2021 Best Online Publication

Iconic movement backs down on jab mandate

Independent and FREE – 2021 Best Online Publication (Qld Country Press)

Iconic movement backs down on jab mandate


Iconic movement backs down on vaccination mandate after backlash from volunteers

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One of the state’s highest profile organisations has backflipped over mandating COVID-19 vaccinations as thousands of volunteers threatened to walk.

Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) had announced that from March 31, 2022, it would be compulsory for all members aged 16 and over to have the jab.

The iconic movement said if they didn’t adhere, volunteers would not be able to patrol, train or compete.

This sparked a huge backlash, involving hundreds of lifesavers on the Sunshine Coast. Many had devoted decades to protecting the public and their ranks included patrol captains, vice-captains, instructors, committee members and nipper organisers.

On Monday, the movement announced an end to the hard line.

“On the basis of the information presented, the SLSQ Board has decided to suspend the requirement for staff and volunteer members to be fully vaccinated by the 31st March 2022,” it said in a circular to clubs and members.

“However, the SLSQ Board continues to highly recommend its membership and staff be fully vaccinated. Members, should they choose to, can still log their vaccination status with their clubs.”

Picture: Peter Hall

SLSQ says more than 34,000 Queenslanders are volunteer members of a surf lifesaving club and more than 462,000 are members of an affiliated supporters’ club.

With modelling showing about 6 per cent of Queenslanders were likely to opt against vaccinations, the losses could have been significant and reduced patrol numbers and beach safety.

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In the circular, SLSQ said it had engaged in consultation with branches, clubs, staff and external stakeholders.

“The Board has taken independent advice and also closely monitored Queensland and Australian Government directives,” it said.

“SLSQ thanks the members, clubs and staff who have provided feedback and submissions relating to the requirement during this valuable consultation process.

“The SLSQ Board and Council considered the vaccination requirement at their bi-annual combined meeting on 5 March 2022.

“A comprehensive report was presented outlining critical information associated with the evolving COVID-19 environment, which information included:

• National and State levels of vaccination have now reached 94.5% and 91.0% respectively (as at 04 March 2022).

Picture: Pete Evans

• At a community level, State border restrictions have been removed, requirements for the use of face masks are reducing, and the community is re-engaging and opening up in response to confidence by Health departments that the community can tolerate these levels.

• Vaccinations and the availability of non-prescription medication have had positive impacts on the health outcomes of individuals contracting COVID-19.

“When initially announcing its decision in November regarding vaccination requirements, the SLSQ Board advised that it would review the situation as it evolves. Nothing has changed in this regard. The Board will continually monitor the situation with advice and review its policies based on current information and risk assessments.”

Surf lifesaving’s stance follows a recent decision by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) not to enforce vaccination for fire fighters and emergency staff.

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