National Volunteer Week: acknowledging the Victoria Police veterans patrolling Geelong’s coast

National Volunteer Week

Geelong Marine Search & Rescue with three of PVV’s veterans; left to right; David McGowan (PVV CEO and Crewman) , Ian Graham (Commander) and Tony Warren (Skipper) on board the new rescue vessel (call sign Rescue 307) provided by Marine Search & Rescue Victoria (MSAR)

A stint in the job for most is enough to fulfil an innate desire to serve the community. For others, the need never quite goes away. 

On board the Geelong Marine Search & Rescue are David McGowan, Ian Graham and Tony Warren; three of Victoria Police’s model veterans. 

The trio, standing tall on the Coast Guard’s new rescue vessel (call sign Rescue 307), have collectively been members of the Geelong Coast Guard for over 22 years. 

The Australian Volunteer Coast Guard (AVCGA) is a marine search and rescue organisation comprised entirely of volunteers.

Operating under State and Territory Emergency Management frameworks, the Coast Guards distinct yellow vessels respond to a variety of marine incident types, rescuing thousands of people each year. 

The AVCGA also works in support of other agencies in response to events like marine fire and medical evacuation from vessels.

“Volunteers are the lifeblood and backbone of our organisation, and without their hard work, dedication and skill, our Association would not exist,”  Terry Langford, National Commodore of the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard Association said. 

“It’s also important that we recognise the families who support, encourage and enable us to give our time to the community.

AVCGA members are called out without notice for many hours, often interrupting family time and sometimes late at night or in harrowing sea conditions.”

Skipper and Victoria Police veteran Tony Warren is a shining example of the value of volunteering. 

Having joined the Coast Guard in 2014, Tony has since embraced his volunteer work, something he said stems from a desire to “continue helping the community in a useful and meaningful way”. 

“I have been involved in well over 100 assists in my time, several of which saved people’s lives as they were in the water with only a relatively short survival time. It gives you such a good feeling inside,” he said.   

“The Coast Guard is an organisation that allows people to assist at a level that they are comfortable with and no pressure to go beyond  those boundaries.

I’ve also made a number of new friends since I started with the Coast Guard, and the atmosphere is always so friendly.”

Commander of the Geelong Flotilla Ian Graham, seen alongside Tony, joined the Coast Guard ten years ago after a substantial 42 year stint in the job. 

Previously a skipper, Ian quickly moved up the ranks. It didn’t take long for him to find a love for everything the Coast Guard can offer volunteers; something he said filled the gap where policing used to be.  

“I’d already been involved with service clubs for years and once I retired, I thought I needed to find something to fill the time,” he said. 

“Being involved in something like this and helping the community has been invaluable,” he said, “and just staying involved in something goes a long way.”

“You don’t go very long after being in the job before you need an outlet like this.”

Currently, total membership of the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard Association sits at 2159 volunteers, made up of 1745 men, 413 women, and 46 vessels.

PVV CEO David McGowan said his work with the Coast Guard has been “just as rewarding” as working for Victoria Police.

“Volunteer work is so invaluable,” he says, “and it gives many people the chance to continue their work helping the community after the job.” 

“Volunteering can be anything you set it out to be, and you’ll end up picking up a few new skills along the way.”

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