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Meet Victoria's first one-armed lifesaver: Emma Olivier

As the 2020 International Day of People with a Disability aims to #DisableStereotypes, we meet a Bayside resident who is doing exactly that whilst helping keep our beaches safe.

Emma Olivier became Victoria's first qualified lifesaver with one arm when she completed her bronze medallion in 2016 and is a proud member of Black Rock Lifesaving Club.

How important is it for people to see diversity in our community?

"20 percent of the Australian population have some type of disability, so it's really important that in all aspects of our community, and particularly in our community clubs, we see people that look like ourselves.

"You can't be what you can't see, so it's important to step up and have a go because you will inspire someone else to do that as well."

What would you say to anyone with a disability who wants to get involved with lifesaving?

"I would say that lifesaving is a very inclusive and diverse sport.

"We've got lots of female members. We've got lots of members with lots of different abilities.

"We don't all need to be Bondi Beach Surf Lifesavers and there's always different ways to do something, so I would absolutely say contact your local club and have a go. Step outside your comfort zone."

""Left: Emma Olivier aged one at South Melbourne Beach. Right: Emma Olivier after becoming a qualified life saver. Credit: Chris Hopkins/The Age

What challenges did you face getting your Bronze Medallion?

"The challenges I faced becoming a lifesaver were working out how to do the various attributes with one hand. So I had to work out how to do CPR and I also had to work out how to do a board rescue.

"I was very lucky that the members of the club were quite inspired to help me. We contacted LSV (Life Saving Victoria) and they provided whatever support they were able to provide as well.

"We were able to adjust the procedures and worked out a way to do it."

Were there any surprises in the process of achieving your Bronze Medallion?

"I was surprised how creative we had to get, but I wasn't surprised that they were accepting.

"I think the majority of our Bayside residents and lifesaving clubs are absolutely built on the foundations of inclusivity and diversity."

How does Life Saving Victoria support people with a disability?

"LSV has a program called Starfish Nippers and we're very lucky in Bayside that it's run out of Hampton Life Saving Club.

"That's a Nippers program for kids of all different types of abilities. We'd love to see that in every lifesaving club in Bayside.

"All our beaches should be accessible by all members of our community."

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A new Advisory Group for Disability Access and Inclusion for Bayside

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