The VMR Round Hill team. Back from left: Archie Hutton, Neale Inskip, Josie Meng, Mark Chambers. Front from left: Ruth Tidy, Laurie Rapa, Doug Meng, David Clarke and his children.
The VMR Round Hill team. Back from left: Archie Hutton, Neale Inskip, Josie Meng, Mark Chambers. Front from left: Ruth Tidy, Laurie Rapa, Doug Meng, David Clarke and his children.

Easter Sunday to mark special anniversary for volunteers

THIS Sunday will mark a very important anniversary and celebration in the lives of many - but it's not Easter.

It's the 45th Anniversary of the foundation of the Round Hill Volunteer Marine Rescue.

The first meeting of what was originally Air Sea Rescue Round Hill was held on April 12, 1975 at the Seventeen Seventy general store.

Founding members Jack and Nora Lewis, Jack Chalmers, Paige Ball, Greg Plath, Jack and Mavis Row, Kevin Maultby, Henry Willert, Bruce Ross, Wander Wood and Tom Jeffery Snr all recognised a need for the service due to the nature of Round Hill Creek's unpredictable entrance.

The first president was Kevin Maultby, vice president Henry Willert, secretary Mavis Row and treasurer Jack Lewis.

An official call sign of VN4NL - Round Hill was officially granted on May 10 that year.

Their only link to the outside world was a Crammond 150 HF radio in the store - owned and operated by Jack and Nora Lewis - which was used to send telegrams.

Medical emergencies were handled by the Royal Flying Doctor Service and a RFDS medical chest was kept at the general store until 1989.

The technology evolved with the times, giving the store a 27 Meg radio and eventually, in the eighties, VHF.

A demountable building was purchased in an auction in August, 1988 and by Christmas that same year the first rescue vessel was leased from a member.

The demountable became the squad rooms and was moved onsite to land leased from Glenolive Pty Ltd in June 1991.

By May the next year, volunteers had transformed the demountable into a complete set-up for the service, the squadron rooms complete with a kitchen, storage area, training room and radio room.

The building was the focal point for many in the community, every Friday and Saturday night until mid 1994-1995 the squadron served home cooked meals and other organisations/groups used it - The RSL and Citizen Club operated from the building for some years and the Bowls Club used the facility until they had some of their own.

A doctor's surgery was also located on the site until it moved to the community centre.

1994 saw the opening of the boat shed and a negotiation with the Miriam Vale Shire Council and Department of Natural Resources to obtain land at Seventeen Seventy for a communication centre.

Then, in 1996, the organisation changed names to become what we know it as now - Volunteer Marine Rescue Round Hill.

This was done in line with the organisations State Association and for the public to recognise that they were volunteers.

Round Hill Rescue - a 7 metre Noosa Cat - was officially commissioned in June 1997.

The vessel had the token name of 'The Mavis Row' and some called her the 'row boat'.

The communications centre became a reality in late 1999.

 

VMR Round Hill's vessel Round Hill Rescue
VMR Round Hill's vessel Round Hill Rescue

 

In his address to officially commission the facility, mayor John Bell congratulated the squadron on its approach to the project and said the service the small group of radio operators provided to the boating public was "very professional and well respected up and down the coast".

By late 2000, a meeting was held regarding a proposed site for a proper rescue facility.

Just a few months later, the volunteers had vacated their home of 10 years and prepared for the move to the combined boatshed and training facility at Round Hill Creek.

Mid-2002 saw meetings with relevant government departments for plans and ground works regarding the project.

2003 saw final plans drafted and 2004 saw a funding application submitted to Jupiter's Casino for assistance with the new boatshed.

After nine years of planning, a 25 year lease for the land was finally received on November 19, 2004.

The very next day, a new rescue vessel - obtained earlier that year - was officially commissioned by state president for VMRAQ John Jacobsen.

The new boat was a sweet piece of gear for the service.

Valued at $270,000, the 8.3m Noosa Cat holds 1000 litres of fuel and 100 litres of freshwater, with state-of-the-art equipment including a GPS and plotter, 24 mile radar, two VHF marine radios, a HF radio, 27meg and UHF and CDMA mobile phone access and all being pushed along by 450 horsepower worth of motors.

2005 saw council approve the new rescue boat shed and training facility on the foreshores of Round Hill Creek.

Construction of the slipway commenced around May and the building footings late December 2006 and saw the rescue vessel able to be housed in April 2007.

The facility was completed late 2007.

There were ups and downs for the volunteers from then.

While they performed admirably, receiving service and achievement medals for their service to the community and during the 2011 floods, they were also rocked by the deaths of several members.

Founding member, secretary and first woman president Mrs Mavis Row died in July 2009 and former vice president and crew member Stan Tidy died in March 2010.

But between 2012 and 2014, VMR Round Hill were fortunate enough to be the recipients of various funding grants from QGC.

The funds allowed them to put two 225hp 4-stroke motors on the Round Hill Rescue.

A new cradle for the vessel and an equipment package including a Forward Looking Infra-Red camera, an Automatic Identification System and solar panels for both buildings were also provided.

A grant from Arrow Energy also helped put a life raft on the vessel.

Since then, VMR Round Hill have helped out with a number of high-profile jobs.

In May 2016, the Spirit of 1770 caught fire with 46 people on-board and 20 nautical miles from Round Hill.

Thanks to the quick response of Round Hill Rescue, VMR Gladstone and local commercial vessels, nobody was seriously injured.

September 2017 saw VMR Round Hill take over the responsibility of broadcasting the weather for the area after the closure of the Bureau of Meteorology office in Rockhampton.

The next month saw tragedy.

Mid-October saw the sinking of fishing vessel Dianne, five nautical miles east-north-east of Round Hill in extremely rough water.

Round Hill Rescue was deployed alongside water police, national parks vessels and local fishing vessels Shifter and Bullet Proof.

Round Hill Rescue was involved in the search effort for 13 days, but sadly only one survivor would be found.

The next few years would see further recognition of the team at VMR Round Hill with the VMRAQ State Council coming to town.

Senior skipper and president Neale Inskip, senior skipper and committee Laurie Rapa, radio operator Ruth Tidy, controller and vice president Doug Meng and operations, radios and secretary Josie Meng all received Nation Medals.

Between the small team, they have over 230 years experience.

A webcam was also set-up on Round Hill Headland in December last year, a safety initiative by VMR Round Hill which was put to the Gladstone harbourmaster and Maritime Safety Queensland.

And while VMR Round Hill technically has about 260 members, most do not live in the area.

The small local team fill the roles of executive, committee and rescue boat and radio operators.

 

VMR Round Hill always appreciates local support.
VMR Round Hill always appreciates local support.

 

Under a Service Agreement with Queensland Fire and Rescue, VMR Round Hill is required to maintain trained personnel for search and rescue operations, medical evacuations and safety radio and communication services.

While they are just volunteers with very limited funding, they say it is a rewarding experience knowing that you have saved somebody's life.

And despite COVID-19 restrictions putting a damper on any celebrations of the 45 year milestone, it's enough for VMR Round Hill to know the community has their back, even as they have ours.



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