This week is National Volunteers Week, which is an annual celebration that recognises the great work volunteers are doing across the nation. Each year there is a theme for the event, with this year's theme being "Better Together". It is a fitting theme given that volunteering brings people together, especially during times of crisis. We saw that during March, when parts of New South Wales and Queensland were battered by severe weather systems that resulted in devastating flooding and coastal erosion. Towns such as Lismore were washed away. Many residents lost their homes, and some even lost their loved ones. However, there was a glimmer of hope for the impacted communities as State Emergency Service volunteers, along with those from several other organisations, put their own safety at risk to assist and gave up their time to help people recover.
Some of the State's surf lifesaving clubs also assisted impacted communities during that time of need. I particularly note those from the electorate of Swansea, which included the Caves Beach Surf Life Saving Club. Inflatable rescue boat crew members Mal Ingram and Zac Gay travelled to Singleton, Muswellbrook and Maitland to undertake rescue work. It appears that is a family tradition, because Zac's great‑grandfather Ron Ekert was a member of the Caves Beach surfboat crews that helped out during the 1955 Maitland flood. Interestingly, his boat did not have a motor on it; he was in a rowboat. I commend both of those men for their assistance, and I am very pleased that the member for Maitland is in the Chamber to hear that.
In addition to the flood recovery efforts, surf lifesaving club volunteers also play an important role in ensuring that beachgoers are safe. During the 2020-21 season, there were 74,937 volunteer surf lifesavers statewide. They completed 663,078 patrol hours and performed 3,067 rescues. Their dedication and commitment to the local community keep people safe. Many Hunter and Central Coast residents constantly give up their time to support their local communities. That includes Marilyn Cousins, Peta Lawrence and Kevin Ableson from Marine Rescue Lake Macquarie, who were all recently awarded national medals for their volunteering efforts over the years.
Community groups have also played an incredibly important role in supporting the people of the Hunter and the Central Coast during the COVID-19 pandemic. Belmont Neighbourhood Centre, Swansea Community Cottage and The Epicentre in San Remo have all worked hard to ensure the health and welfare of the people of Swansea during the health crisis. Those not-for-profit organisations constantly made sure that all their programs were provided throughout the community. I understand that The Epicentre also facilitated COVID-19 vaccination appointments in an effort to protect the local community against the coronavirus. Those efforts to continue to support people throughout such a difficult period demonstrate the organisations' commitment and dedication to ensuring the welfare of our local community.
Gateway Church and Belmont Lions Club have also helped out during difficult times. Both of those groups are known for their dedication to the local community through the support and services they provide. With several people within the local area struggling to make ends meet because of the rising cost of living, Gateway Church and Belmont Lions Club partnered to establish and run a mobile shower and laundry service. Gateway Church has also been distributing non-perishable food items to not-for-profit organisations across Lake Macquarie and Newcastle to assist those in need. Last September I had the pleasure of visiting when they received 20 pallets of non‑perishable food items for delivery. The assistance supplied by Gateway Church has played a critical role in helping residents to get back on their feet.
I thank those groups for their efforts in continually helping the local community, as well as all the organisations and volunteers that assist the people who live in the electorate of Swansea. All members who come to this House live in truly lovely communities. The amount of volunteering that we all see throughout our communities is quite remarkable, and I often say that people get more out of volunteering than they put in. I commend all the volunteers across New South Wales and thank them so much for all of their efforts, particularly those who live in the electorate of Swansea.