GUARDIANS: Back: John Scragg, Stuart Pryor, Murray Longland, Jesse Campbell. Front:Linda Scragg, Dianne Pryor, Chris Ashcroft, Dale Green,
GUARDIANS: Back: John Scragg, Stuart Pryor, Murray Longland, Jesse Campbell. Front:Linda Scragg, Dianne Pryor, Chris Ashcroft, Dale Green, {JOY BUTLER}

Meet the Guardians of the Straits

SIMILAR to the Volunteer Marine Rescue and often working in conjunction with them, Coast Guard Great Sandy Strait, aka the Guardians of the Straits, is a volunteer organisation, carrying out invaluable work in our regions waterways.

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While all of the 45 working volunteers do vital work on behalf of the boating community, the women of this organisation provide a real back bone, looking after everything from the general day-to-day administration, to raising awareness down to feeding the hungry troops.

Administration officer and executive member Christine Ashcroft, who joined the group five years ago, said she was a lose end when she decided to join and hasn't looked back since.

"I was at a bit of a lose end after giving up work and looking to fill in some hours," she said.

"Because this was nice and handy, I just turned up down here and I found that the companionship and the company was excellent so I just decided to stay."

While it might not provide the adrenaline rush you're likely to find on the water, the organisation would not run as smoothly as it does without Christine's 12 volunteer hours each week.

She organises the meetings and handles all correspondence, including updating of all personal details.

While Christine has the paperwork in order, Linda Scragg feeds everyone and Dianne Pryor handles all the social media and marketing - both putting in about 12 volunteer hours on average a week.

"It's a brand-new roll," Dianne said.

"It was done by a lot of different people and what I am hoping to do is to get it all under one banner.

"To start with I took on our facebook page and that has been a learning curce, but that's going really well."

Dianne and her husband Stuart Pryor decided to join the service after returning from a three-month boating experience.

"Before joining up we went away boating for three months and during that time we used the VMR and Coast Guards quite a bit," she said.

"So, when we came back what a great way for us to give back."

On the water there is no difference in the work they do to that of the VMR, both organisations say their purpose is the preservation of life at sea.

Besides tackling the Wide Bay bay bar crossing, where the sea comes in from three different ways, perhaps one of the most challenging things they must overcome is the assumption they're government funded.

Deputy Commander John Scragg said they were a 100 per cent volunteer organisation who relied on their own fundraising efforts to keep the service afloat.

"It's an unfortunate thing, if you look at the history of the organisation, when it was decided it was necessary they took the name from the American Coast Guard Auxiliary," he said.

"In America I think it is government funded and well-funded, so we probably made a mistake right in the early days by calling ourselves the Coast Guard."

John said the only government money they received was $20,000 a year from the Department of Emergency Services and any successful grants they applied for.

"We've done reasonably well out of the Gambling Community Benefit fund in the last few years," he said.

"We've been able to put in a standby generator, and we also put in a water tank and we've renovated the whole base here last year."

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Outside of that, the members raise most of the money needed to run the service was raised via fishing competition each September, Saturday night raffles at Maryborough RSL, rattle tins at Dan Murphy's and The Carrier's Arms in Maryborough and donation tins at various retail outlets.

While donations are always welcome, the organisation is calling for a younger breed of volunteers.

The average age of the current volunteers is 60, with Jesse Campbell, being by far the youngest volunteer at 22 years.

Jesse, who started volunteering at just 18 years old, said he had learnt some invaluable skills that would last a lifetime and help with his career into the future.

If you're interested in joining the Coast Guard Sandy Strait, or want to find out how you can help visit their facebook page..



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