LIFEGUARD PLEA: Denis and Margaret Hicks are lobbying for permanent lifeguards on Ballina beaches.
LIFEGUARD PLEA: Denis and Margaret Hicks are lobbying for permanent lifeguards on Ballina beaches.

FOR MATTHEW

By DAWN COHEN

THE parents of drowned teenager, Matthew Hicks, yesterday pleaded for Ballina Shire Council to provide year-round lifeguards.

Margaret and Denis Hicks, of Goonellabah, slipped quietly into the gallery while councillors debated surf lifesaving patrols.

The couple's 18-year-old son drowned on Shelly beach in September while swimming close to shore, where flags are usually located.

However, there was no lifeguard on duty because the council only funds guards during the Christmas and April school holidays.

Coming to Ballina is an agonising reminder for the pair. They call it a 'Matthew day'.

"We can be going along alright, and then something triggers us. We come crashing down," Mrs Hicks said.

"But if I have to shed more tears so that no other parent, grandparent, brother or sister has to go through what we have been through, then it is worth it.

"It is important we come to represent Matthew."

The couple believes 365-day patrols are warranted because the region's warm winters, tourism and casual work bring people to the beaches year round.

When Mr Hicks was 17 his own life was saved by a lifesaver, ironically almost 30 years to the day of his son's death.

"I am living proof that lifeguards are crucial," he said.

The council meeting endorsed a staff recommendation for a formal risk assessment to evaluate patrol needs on the beaches.



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