Harry Giese, Community leader

Royal Life Saving Society Australia

'Over one million Australians undertake a Royal Life Saving course or program every year. That's a remarkable achievement and testament to the quality of community engagement by all branches in Australia.

Our own Northern Territory Branch was established nearly fifty years ago. Prior to this, we were a sub-branch of South Australia.

The highly respected, well known and revered Territorian, Mr Harry Giese, was instrumental in advocating for a Territory branch.

Able to chart its own course from 1965, the Northern Territory Branch has flourished and has well and truly come of age. It is well known that the Top End of the Territory has some unique challenges to contend with. By way of illustration, I quote words from a report to the Territory Branch office from Sue Colligan at Borroloola:

I am now planning the Water Awareness and Resuscitation program for September, as the Council members are refusing to put a crocodile-proof case in the McArthur River here until a resident 14-foot salt-water crocodile has been caught...The cage allows the baby crocs to slip through. The bigger ones cruise the boundary.

The Northern Territory Branch of the Royal Life Saving Society continues to grow stronger. In the last reporting year, they issued some 11,398 certificates, including 9,861 from the Swim and Survive program and 3,415 training certificates. Nearly 10,000 primary school children from 71 schools across the Territory, including remote areas, participated in the Swim and Survive program.'

from speech by the Honourable Sally Thomas, AM, Administrator of the Northern Territory, on the occasion of morning tea for the Royal Life Saving Society Australia, Government House, Darwin, 25 May 2012 


'...Trained as a teacher and physical education specialist, Harry Giese went to NT in 1954 as Director of Welfare and interested himself particularly in Aboriginal education...he was instrumental in 1965 in cutting the ties with South Australia and achieving Branch status [for the Territory]...

Able at last to chart its own course, NT Branch surveyed its assets and its special problems...Where else is swimming and lifesaving taught by correspondence?...Where else need a lifesaving instructor delay her training program until the crocodile-proof cage has been made ready at the river swimming hole?...

Although flash floods do drown people and...more people have in fact been taken by crocodiles than by sharks in recent years in northern Australia, the one single great water danger to life in the Northern Territory is the ubiquitous backyard pool...Royal has had notable success in Territory schools, beginning with the formation of the Commonwealth Teaching Service in 1973 as the NT moved towards self-government. The Society's then NT Awards Secretary, Daphne Read, proposed to the new education authority that RLSSA would develop and operate a basic core curriculum for swimming and lifesaving in all NT schools...[This] has been one of Royal's real success stories. In-term classes lasting ten days operate in every school with access to a pool...In 1985 Royal designed an employment program in Darwin which took in some 20 unemployed young people, trained them to Bronze Medallion and Austswim standards, and put them to work at public pools in Darwin. Their job was to teach water awareness to young mothers and their small children 2 to 4 years old. The plan brought lifesaving to a previously neglected risk area and effectively demonstrated the capacity of [young children] to learn water awareness...Many of the young people employed in the scheme went on to make careers for themselves in lifeguarding, pool management and learn-to-swim programs.'

from chapter on the Northern Territory, Here There Be Crocodiles, in Royal Life: A History of the Royal Life Saving Society Australia, 1894-1994, Jim Downes, 1994  

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